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No. 4 Mountaineers Finish Level with Lehigh

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (Oct. 5, 2021) – The No. 4-ranked West Virginia University men’s soccer team played to a 1-1, double-overtime draw at Lehigh on Tuesday night at the Ulrich Sports Complex in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The Mountaineers scored just 59 seconds into the match but couldn’t find another tally in their second consecutive tie. WVU recorded a season-best 25 shots on the night, including seven on goal.

With the result, WVU extended its season-opening unbeaten streak to 10 games, good for the longest to begin a year in program history.

“We still have some strides to make in terms of a ruthless mentality,” WVU coach Dan Stratford said. “We’ve played a lot of close games to this point and have had opportunities to put teams away. For whatever reason, we haven’t capitalized on those moments like we should have. So, the way we conceded (tonight) isn’t the reason why we didn’t win the game, it’s because we didn’t do enough in the final third and convert our chances in key moments.”

WVU (6-0-4) needed less than a minute to take a quick, 1-0 lead. Sophomore midfielder Ryan Crooks found senior forward Yoran Popovic in front of the goal for the Zuidlaren, Netherlands, native’s team-leading fourth goal of the campaign.

Then, West Virginia nearly doubled the lead on a saved effort off the foot of Crooks in the 12th minute. Popovic also was denied of his second goal of the contest in the 18th minute of play.

Lehigh (1-8-2) collected four first-half saves in all, as the Mountaineers took a 1-0 lead into the locker room after 45 minutes.

In the second half, the Mountain Hawks scored the equalizer in the 75th minute on a penalty kick. It marked the Mountaineers’ first conceded goal since their 2-2 draw at Marshall on Sept. 17.

West Virginia was unable to score a late winner as the matchup reached overtime. That’s when senior defender Aaron Denk Gracia had a pair of chances to record a golden goal for the visitors. In the 94th minute, he blasted a shot from the top of the box that was saved, before he hit the post off a corner kick in the 98th.

From there, junior midfielder Luke McCormick nearly ended it with a 101st-minute shot that sailed just high. In all, the Mountaineers held a 25-10 advantage in shots, including 7-3 in shots on goal.

What’s more, West Virginia tallied 12 corner kicks, to Lehigh’s two.

Popovic finished with six shots in the draw, including a pair on goal. Denk Gracia and McCormick added four shots each.

Tuesday marked the first-ever meeting between WVU and Lehigh. The Mountaineers are now 0-0-2 against Patriot League foes this season.

“The next 24-to-48 hours are going to critical in terms of how we respond,” Stratford said. “We need to make sure we get back together and be ready for a very tough game on Saturday.”

Next up, West Virginia continues its four-match road trip by traveling to DeKalb, Illinois, for a Mid-American Conference fixture at Northern Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 9. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET.

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