The No. 5 West Virginia men’s soccer team jumped all the way up the United Soccer Coaches Poll on Tuesday after knocking off a pair of top-25 opponents last week.
The high ranking comes after a week of being unranked and defeating then-No. 3 Pitt on Monday then finishing the week by scoring three goals in a victory over then-No. 17 Penn State on Friday. The Mountaineers have begun their season undefeated at 3-0-1 after tying Loyola of Maryland on Monday.
The Mountaineers have come out of the gates strong this season looking a lot better than many predicted before the season began in August but head coach Dan Stratford explains that there is always room to improve and to never get too comfortable as a team.
“We’re not satisfied tonight yet at the same time as you’ve said we beat two ranked opponents back to back now and we’re 3-0,” Stratford said. “There’s not a single person in the soccer community who wouldn’t take that so we have to take the positives as well but we have to continue to improve at the same time.”
Even with West Virginia putting up three wins on the young season, there hasn’t been a player who’s scored more than one goal. A group of Mountaineers in Luke McCormick, Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi, Adam Burchell, Dyon Dromers, Pau Jimenez Albelda, Frederik Jorgensen and Bjarne Thiesen have netted goals through four matches.
West Virginia is an experienced squad this year with a number of upperclassmen leading the way both on offense and defense. Senior forwards Ike Swiger, Tony Pineda, Adam Burchell and fifth year seniors in defender Kevin Morris and midfielder Pau Jimenez Albelda are stringing together a leadership unit.
As these Mountaineers know it’s still very early into the fall season and MAC play is approaching fast with some quality action set to take place again. It’s helpful when you have a tough non-conference slate to prepare players and coaches for the bigger games later into the fall.
“The non-conference schedule that we have we’re not overlooking anyone in the next three to four games,” Stratford said. “So if we can get ourselves a fantastic platform in terms of our record following that stint of non-conference games then that gives us obviously a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum going into conference play. Who better to start with than Akron? Who are traditionally speaking the best team in the conference.”
The squad is coming off a season in which the fall campaign was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Mountaineers were only able to play a 10-game spring slate in which they finished 6-3-1. One of the highlights of Stratford’s first spring with the old gold and blue was a victory over the eventual National Champions in Marshall, 1-0.
Stratford’s leadership is easy to recognize through only four matches so far this season and a successful spring season earlier in the year. It’s in fact the highest the men’s soccer program at West Virginia has been ranked since September 18, 2007.
The head coach began to describe that his team still needs to play their game in important moments and make sure his players are coming through in clutch opportunities. Besides, it is only the first four matches of the season in early September.
“I think there’s still room for improvement quite honestly, as you’d expect there to be only three games in. This was a different type of test and it was obviously unique to play as long as we did against ten men but they continue to pose threats,” Stratford said.
This also comes in a week when the Mountaineers own Luke McCormick was named MAC player of the week after leading the team with three points and five shot attempts in two matches. The junior midfielder was able to net a goal as well as an assist last week in the pair of victories over ranked opponents.
With four matches looming until MAC action begins, the West Virginia men’s soccer team will kick it into higher gear and see what they are made of after a couple bigger wins in the season.