West Virginia University men’s soccer coach Marlon LeBlanc is hoping for a record crowd of 4,000 as the team begins its 50th season Friday night at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, and he’s talking up the game wherever he goes in hopes of a historic turnout.
Extensive soccer knowledge isn’t required, he says. Having a good time and cheering on the Mountaineers are all that’s necessary.
WVU plays host to No. 9 Monmouth in the WVU Classic at 7:30 p.m. The Mountaineers then play No. 17. UNC-Wilmington at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 5.
“I think people are starting to appreciate the sport more,” LeBlanc said. “But even if you don’t understand it, or maybe never went to a soccer game before, I think you’ll love seeing us because it’s a great atmosphere full of WVU fans.
“The atmosphere is contagious whether you’re a lifelong fan of the sport or not.”
Dick Dlesk’s official capacity is 1,650 but last year, around 1,800 attended the Mountaineers’ home opener and as many as 2,938 have squeezed in for a match. LeBlanc hopes to not only top that mark but also create an intimidating environment for opponents.
“We’ve got a group of fans that play drums,” LeBlanc said. “And unlike football and basketball, in our stadium you’re right on top of the action. The players and referees can hear every single word out of your mouth. Being at the stadium just grabs ahold of you.”
LeBlanc, in his fifth year, is rallying support for his team and encouraging those who come to Fan Fest at the Mountainlair on Friday evening to make the trip across campus for the game.
He met with the student fan group, the Mountaineer Maniacs, recently to help boost student attendance and is getting the word out to the WVU community, whom he says have been among his most loyal supporters.
He also hopes to take advantage of the crowd arriving for Saturday’s football home opener against Coastal Carolina. Having coached his team before crowds of more than 5,000 at Maryland and more than 4,000 at Connecticut, a Big East rival, has given LeBlanc inspiration.
“Nationally we were 25th in attendance last season,” LeBlanc said. “In comparison, they averaged 300-some fans per game the year before I got here. From our perspective, it’s grown quite a bit over the last four or five years. I’m pleased and unbelievably proud that we’re in the top 25 but our goal for this program is to be in the top 10 every year.”
To increase support, LeBlanc also hopes to build on Mountaineer traditions. He wants to broadcast Country Roads before the Mountaineers take the field and introduce special chants and cheers that can be used throughout the game.
Once the action starts, LeBlanc, the 2006 Soccer America and FieldTurf-Tarket National Coach of the Year, promised the Mountaineers will play with “style and passion.” The young team boasts just three seniors but also a host of young, exciting players who are among the best at their spots in the league and nationally.
Senior midfielder Alex Silva led the team with three goals last season and sophomore forward Shadow Sebele led the team with nine points (two goals, five assists). Junior defender Raymon Gaddis and senior goalie Zach Johnson are top talents nationally.
“First and foremost we’ve got a group of guys that are blue collar and will work their socks off,” LeBlanc said. “In a worst-case scenario this team will give 100 percent effort but I also think this group really has the potential to be great.”
In addition to the two men’s soccer games and the football game on Saturday, the women’s soccer team plays Central Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday.
For a complete list of WVU sporting events, visit http://www.msnsportsnet.com/
CONTACT: Grant Dovey, Sports Communications
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