BOWLING GREEN - Eric Schoenle scored with 6:48 remaining in the second half, lifting visiting West Virginia University to a 1-0 win over the Bowling Green State University men's soccer team Saturday night (Nov. 3). The Mid-American Conference match was held at Cochrane Field.
Despite the loss, the Falcons (8-8-3 overall, 3-3-1 MAC) have qualified for the MAC Tournament. Western Michigan lost, 1-0, at Akron in Saturday night's other MAC match. The Falcons and WMU finish in a tie for fourth place in the conference, but BGSU earns the fourth and final seed for the league tourney by virtue of a 2-1 win over the Broncos in the teams' regular-season meeting.
West Virginia improves to 9-5-2 and 4-2-1, respectively. The Mountaineers, a MAC affiliate member for men's soccer, finish the regular season in a second-place tie with Northern Illinois. WVU will face NIU in the first MAC Tournament semifinal, with BGSU taking on top-seeded Akron in the second semifinal on Friday evening (Nov. 9).
Saturday's BGSU-WVU match was spirited and intense, and was heated at times, but the teams combined for just 20 total shots – 10 for each side – and only three shots on goal.
On a cool, clear evening at Cochrane Field, the Falcons honored their seniors prior to the match. Sean Hastings, Zach Lemke and Chris McLean were recognized in Senior Night ceremonies just before kickoff.
The first half saw a total of only eight shots taken, with only one of those shots on target. That shot came off the boot of Lemke in the third minute, but was gathered in by WVU goalkeeper Pat Eavenson.
Midway through the half, junior Zach Schewee played a low ball toward the 18-yard box. A Mountaineer defender let it skip past him, but Eavenson was able to dive on the ball before BGSU junior Anthony Grant could get to it.
Five minutes later, Grant was again lurking on the doorstep. This time, sophomore Danny Baraldi hit a free kick into the box, but Eavenson was able to time his jump to grab the ball from the leaping Grant.
At the other end of the pitch, junior goalkeeper Michael Wiest grabbed a corner kick off the boot of Andy Bevin in traffic with eight minutes to go in the period.
One minute later, junior Ryan Comiskey stole a West Virginia pass near midfield and began a counterattack. Comiskey slid a pass to classmate Ryan Snashall on his left, and Snashall hit a shot as he neared the penalty area, but his effort was blocked by a Mountaineer back.
Early in the second period, a combination play by freshman Ryan James and Snashall sent Schewee down the left side. The junior put a cross into the box, but a WVU defender was able to head it out of danger.
Six minutes into the half, Grant drew a free kick as he was knocked to the ground on a run down the left side. Baraldi's free kick was blocked in the box, but Lemke's lunging effort sent the ball back into the danger area. No teammate could get to it, however, before the WVU defense cleared it out of the 18-yard box.
As the match neared the hour mark, Baraldi's right-side cross was just out of reach of James in the box. That play came not long after Eavenson had strayed from his goalmouth, wandering nearly all the way to midfield to play a ball into the BG end. Eavenson made it safely back to his six-yard box by the time Baraldi's cross came through.
BG had several other chances in the next few minutes. Grant went to the ground as he battled a Mountaineer for possession in the box, but the assistant referee's flag was raised, indicating offside against the Falcons. Then, Eavenson grabbed a free kick by Baraldi in traffic. And, James and Baraldi teamed up to get the ball to Grant, who cut from right to left across the box before firing a shot over the target.
With under 15 minutes left, WVU's Uwem Etuk crossed the ball from the left side of the pitch into the center of the box. A BG defender blocked it, and the ball popped up into the air. The visitors' Ryan Cain was there, but Wiest out-jumped him and came down with the ball.
Moments later, Comiskey and redshirt junior Brandon Silva combined to get the ball to James. The freshman struck a volley from approximately 20 yards out, but the shot was hit at Eavenson, who grabbed the ball and held on.
Twelve minutes remained when Snashall made a run and drew a foul. But, the ensuing free kick was off the mark.
With under seven minutes left, the visitors won a corner kick, and Travis Pittman took that kick from the left side. His ball found the head of Schoenle, who nodded it past Wiest and sparked a wild celebration by the visitors near the corner flag.
The clock was ticking down under the six-minute mark when Baraldi struck a shot from just outside the penalty area. The ball was blocked by a WVU defender, and the Falcons pleaded with the referee for a handball call, but play continued. That play, at 84:05, proved to be the last shot attempt of the night for either team.
Eavenson made two saves to pick up the shutout for the visitors. The Mountaineers had higher totals in the corner-kicks(6-1), fouls-committed (14-10) and yellow-card (2-0) departments.
Friday's MAC Tournament semifinals will see WVU facing NIU at 4:00 p.m., with BGSU taking on host Akron at 7:30 p.m. Both semifinal-round contests, as well as Sunday's (Nov. 11) championship, will be held at UA's FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.