Wheeling, W.Va. – The long road trip continues for the Wheeling University Men’s Soccer team (0-2, 0-1) as they look to bounce back in Mountain East Conference (MEC) play. They make the two and a half hour trip down to Philippi, West Virginia on Sunday as they face the Alderson Broaddus Battlers at noon. It will be the finale of a three-game road trip to start the year for the team and they look to end the stretch with a win before they return home.
Last time out, the Cardinals would kick off their conference schedule when they traveled to Notre Dame College in what was a 3-0 loss. The Cardinals once again got good work in net, with Flemming Sandt getting the start in net, as he kept his team in the game. The Cardinals would hold the Falcons off the board for the first 44:56 of the game, with Sandt making five big first half saves. However, with just four seconds remaining on the first half clock, Notre Dame was able to find the net and take a 1-0 lead. They added two more goals in the second half and the Cardinals couldn’t generate enough offense to keep it up. While the Cardinals were unable to get on the board for the second straight game, they showed improvement, being more efficient with their shots, putting three of their seven shots on goal.
While the offense has been slow, the defense has been very strong for the Cardinals in the first two games of the year. The two goalkeepers the team used have not allowed more than three goals in a game, and they are saving just over 60% of the shoes they have faced. Austin Aaron got the start in the first game of the season, and faced five shots on goal, making three saves. Freshman Flemming Sandt followed him up in game two with a similarly strong effort, saving six of the nine shots he faced on goal throughout the night. Both keepers made big saves in big moments for the team and are getting help from the defenders as well. They are keeping the Cardinals in games and giving them a chance to win every night.
On the offensive side of the ball, freshman Diego Beunano has gotten off to a hot start in his collegiate career. In his two games played, he has taken five shots, putting one on the net, and has been the team’s shots leader in both games. The Caracas, Venezuela native was named Special Mention during his senior season at Colegio Integral al Avila and has brought his talents to the college game. Harry Martin has been the team’s most efficient shooter so far this season, putting two of the three shots he has taken on net. Richard Afolayanka has also been taking his shots, sitting second on the team with three shots, one on net. The Cardinals will look to start making those shots that get to the back of the net to back up their defense.
After playing their conference opener, the Cardinals are getting ready to finish up a stretch of three straight road games to start the year. Their goal is to make the top four of the MEC this season and they look to get back on track in Sunday. This is the Cardinals first 0-2 start since the COVID-shortened 2020 season, when they dropped their first two games to Frostburg State and West Virginia Wesleyan. The Cardinals were picked ninth in this season’s MEC Preseason poll, and are one of five winless teams in the conference. If they can get some momentum on their side, they look to defy expectations and punch their ticket to the MEC tournament.
The Cardinals and Battlers will meet for the 16th time in program history on Sunday, with the Cardinals holding the all-time series record at 9-5-2. However, when the game was played in Philippi, the Cardinals fared much better, going 7-2 in away contests in the matchup. Lately, the games have been close, with each of the last six games being decided by two goals or fewer. The last time the two teams met was on November 3rd, 2021, in a game that Wheeling lost 3-1 at Bishop Schmitt Field.
Richard Afolayanka led the team on that day, taking three shots, putting all three on net, and scoring a goal. Armando Loynaz led the team with five shots in the game and Christian Ruud put both of his shots on net. Austin Aaron would get the start in net in that game and made seven saves on 10 shots faced.
Kick-off for Sunday’s MEC matchup is scheduled for 12 PM at the Multi Sport Performance Stadium on the campus of Alderson Broaddus University. You can watch the game live by clicking HERE or follow along with Live Stats by clicking HERE.