Soccer ‘Cats score late to down Wheeling in season debut, 2-1

West Virginia Wesleyan’s Nugzar Barkaia (8) attempts to avoid contact with Wheeling goalie Tyler Serman as he makes a save after a corner kick as two Wheeling defenders converge on the net during the first half of their MEC contest Sunday afternoon at Ross Field. The ‘Cats downed Wheeling, 2-1.

Gavin Donaldson wins 350th game at West Virginia Wesleyan

BUCKHANNON – It was perhaps the strangest open to a season that West Virginia Wesleyan veteran men’s soccer head coach Gavin Donaldson has ever seen.

The Covid-19 pandemic postponed the traditional fall season, which normally begins in late August to start on a Sunday in February, and a snow and ice storm this past week in Buckhannon made for an interesting scene at Ross Field.

Despite all of that, there will be another reason that Donaldson remembers the 2021 season opener as his Bobcats won a thrilling 2-1 contest over Wheeling, giving the head coach his 350th career win at Wesleyan and his 392nd overall.

Donaldson is fourth among active coaches in wins at the NCAA Division II level and is 21st on the all-time coaching wins list in Division II.

The Bobcats gave Donaldson the milestone win in the most dramatic of fashions.

With the snow being cleared off Ross Field just past the sidelines and goal lines piled up two feet high presenting a unique look to the contest, both teams failed to find the back of the net in the first half.

A foul on Wheeling’s Rene Palma, who took down Javier De Ona Garcia in the box, gave Wesleyan a penalty kick in the 57th minute. Andrew Polychroniadis took the kick and beat Cardinal keeper Tyler Serman with a shot to give Wesleyan a 1-0 advantage.

Wheeling tied the game five minutes later on a failed clear by Wesleyan when Miguel Martin scored an unassisted goal for the Cardinals.

With less than three minutes remaining, on a set piece from the corner, Charlie Naylor scored the game winner for Wesleyan with De Ona Garcia getting credit for the assist.

“The game’s rhythm was off overall,” said Donaldson. “That interrupted play at times, but there are some promising things from this good group of players. That's a good game to start the spring.”

Shots-on-goal were even at four apiece for both teams.

Wesleyan held a 9-2 advantage in corner kicks.

The ‘Cats were called for 14 fouls while Wheeling was guilty of eight.

Bobcat keeper, freshman Ryan Havrilla, made three saves while Serman stopped two shots for Wheeling.

Wesleyan will return to action this Sunday when they host Concord at Ross Field.

The game will begin at 2 p.m.

The boxscore:

Wheeling                                0  1 – 1

West Virginia Wesleyan        0  2 – 2

Scoring

West Virginia Wesleyan – Andrew Polychroniadis (penalty kick), 57th minute

Wheeling – Miguel Martin (unassisted), 62nd minute

West Virginia Wesleyan – Charlie Naylor (Javier De Ona Garcia assist), 87th minute

Shots-on-goal – Wheeling: 4; West Virginia Wesleyan 4.

Corner kicks – Wheeling: 2; West Virginia Wesleyan 9.

Fouls – Wheeling: 8; West Virginia Wesleyan 14.

Saves – Wheeling: Tyler Serman 2; West Virginia Wesleyan: Ryan Havrilla 3.

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