MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Perhaps the best part of the 2013 schedule WVU men's soccer Coach Marlon LeBlanc called "arguably" the toughest one he's put together in eight years is not the bold back-to-back matches on the road against 2012 national runner-up Georgetown and national champion Indiana.
It's that the Mountaineers nearly had a third team from last season's Final Four on the schedule. Creighton, though, had to juggle its schedule upon leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for the Big East and pushed the match with the Mountaineers back until 2014.
WVU is nevertheless left with eight non-conference matches against teams from the top 100 of the final RPI in 2012 - and the lowest rank is No. 85. Five of those are top 25 opponents and the Mountaineers will play one top five and one top 60 team in Mid-American Conference play.
The intraconference number is lower than what LeBlanc is used to after coaching six seasons in the Big East. Life in the MAC is forcing him to schedule so brazenly.
"What we lost from the Big East in terms of RPI games was not picked up by changing conferences," LeBlanc said. "College soccer's RPI is almost identical to college basketball's RPI and strength of schedule is a major component. We lost too many good teams in the Big East."
The Mountaineers were 9-6-2 in 2012 with a 4-2-1 mark in the MAC, plus a 0-1 record in the MAC tournament. They missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons. The MAC losses were against Akron (No. 4) and Northern Illinois (No. 101) in the regular season and the postseason. The tie was against Western Michigan (No. 116). Akron, WVU (No. 58) and Bowling Green (No. 99) were the MAC's only top 100 teams last season.
The Big East had 13.
"I knew what was going to be the problem going in," LeBlanc said. "The real problem for us was I didn't have any time to solve it. In a normal year, that 9-6-2 record makes us an at-large NCAA Tournament team."
LeBlanc was short on time because WVU's move from the Big East to the Big 12, which doesn't sponsor men's soccer, was hung up by WVU suing the Big East and the Big East suing WVU. The time needed to reach a settlement in February hindered LeBlanc's scheduling. WVU wasn't out of the Big East, so he couldn't abandon the possibility he'd be in the Big East in 2012. Other teams were hesitant to sign non-conference contracts not knowing WVU's fate.
LeBlanc said there was a plan to play the Big East schedule as an independent, but not be eligible for the Big East tournament. He said that came undone once Temple began considering membership in all sports.
He ended up with a 17-match schedule he wasn't thrilled with. WVU later lost one match because of bad weather. College teams are allowed to play a combination of 20 exhibition and regular-season matches.