JMU roundup: Coward’s golden goal boosts Dukes to win

Daily Staff Reports –

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University redshirt-sophomore midfielder Connor Coward scored his first career goal Tuesday night to give the Dukes’ men’s soccer team a thrilling 4-3 victory in double overtime against West Virginia at University Park.

Coward, who also started for the first time in his career, collected a ball 10 yards from the penalty area after a low clearance kick was deflected by senior forward Josh Grant. The midfielder dribbled to the top right side of the box and fired a shot on a rope past WVU goalkeeper Brent Arnold to help JMU improve to 4-3-1 on the season.

The win capped off a come-from-behind effort that saw Madison go down 2-0 in the first seven minutes. West Virginia’s Ryan Cain scored two goals in 80 seconds to put the Mountaineers up early. Cain would eventually score all three of West Virginia’s goals in the game.

Nearly three minutes after WVU (4-4) went up 2-0, the Dukes started on the comeback trail with a goal from redshirt-freshman defender Toby Appleton. Appleton beat a West Virginia defender at the top-left side of the penalty area and put his shot past Arnold to the near-left post to cut the WVU lead in half in the ninth minute. It marked his second goal in as many games for Appleton, scoring his first career goal Sept. 19 against Robert Morris.

Six minutes later in the 15th minute, redshirt-senior midfielder Jamal Umar scored his first collegiate goal with a left-footed shot from the top of the box. With a Mountaineer defender on his back, Umar took a pass from Grant at the top of the box and fended off the defender to set himself up with a shot that beat Arnold to the left side.

JMU completed the comeback two minutes later in the 17th minute when Grant put a header in the back of the net off a throw-in into the box from Coward that found Grant on the back post. Grant, like Umar, fended off a defender and got just enough of the ball to send it back to the right side of goal.

Looking to tie the game out of halftime, Cain completed the natural hat trick in the 57th minute to bring WVU back even with JMU, 3-3. Cain received a through-ball from Joey Piatczyc and beat JMU redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Morton with a perfectly placed chip shot that Morton could not get to, as the ball sailed over the goalkeeper and fell just under the crossbar for the goal.

The win, the first of the season at University Park for the Dukes, gives JMU a 6-2 record all-time against the Mountaineers. It also improved JMU to 5-0 at home against West Virginia.

JMU embarks on a three-game road trip starting Friday against Furman. The match is set for 7 p.m. The Paladins are 4-1-1 on the year and are ranked No. 22 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll and the Soccer America poll. Furman is also getting consideration in Top Drawer Soccer’s national poll.

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