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WVU Hosts NIU to Open Conference and Home Slates

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (March 5, 2021) – The West Virginia University men’s soccer team (1-0-0, 0-0-0 MAC) opens its home slate on Saturday, March 6, hosting Northern Illinois to begin Mid-American Conference play. Kickoff at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown, is set for noon ET.

In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium will operate at 25% capacity for the spring 2021 home season. For the overall safety of all those in attendance, facemasks will be required of all spectators and should be worn at all times.

An extremely limited amount of tickets remain on sale. Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance by visiting WVUGAME.com or calling 1-800-WVU GAME to avoid lines at the gate on game day. When purchasing online, tickets are $5 each. Any remaining tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for youth and seniors at the stadium ticket window on match day.
 
A limited amount of WVU student tickets also will be made available at the Mountaineer Ticket Office, located at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. The office, as well as the stadium gates, opens at 11:30 a.m., on game day. WVU students are admitted free with a valid WVU Student I.D.

For those unable to attend the contest in person, the game will be carried live on ESPN+, with Mark Schoenster and Matthew Drabble on the call. Fans also can listen live on 99.7 FM (WWVU), while live stats can be found at WVUsports.com.

“The win at Charlotte obviously gave us a lot of confidence coming into this week after such a long time off,” first-year head coach Dan Stratford said. “On the other hand, it also gave us a platform to build off of in terms of what we need to improve upon as we enter conference play against Northern Illinois on Saturday.”

Saturday’s match opens WVU’s 17th season at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, as the Mountaineers boast a 109-41-19 all-time record in the facility. West Virginia won its 100th match at DDSS in the squad’s 2019 home opener on Sept. 7. WVU topped Wright State, 2-1, in front of 1,512 fans.

The match also marks WVU’s first Mid-American Conference game of the season, as the Mountaineers enter league play as the defending MAC Tournament champions. Since joining the league in 2012, WVU has an all-time record of 18-18-7 in regular season MAC play. The Mountaineers are 2-3-3 in MAC season openers, as well as 1-3-1 in openers at home.

West Virginia and Northern Illinois meet for the 10th time in program history on Saturday, after NIU took a 4-3-2 lead in the all-time series in 2019, beating West Virginia, 4-2, in Morgantown for the first time. Despite the loss, the Mountaineers held an advantage in shots (19-8), shots on goal (8-6) and corner kicks (15-2) in the contest.

WVU is coming off a 3-0, season-opening victory at Charlotte on Friday, Feb. 26, as the Mountaineers earned the first win of the season, as well as Stratford’s first victory at the helm of his alma mater. Junior Tony Pineda scored a pair of goals in the win, including the game winner and first goal of the 2021 season in the fourth minute. The score marked the first game-winner of his career. Pineda’s second score came in the 36th minute to seal the 3-0 win for WVU. 

Also finding the back of the net for West Virginia at Charlotte was freshman Bjarne Thiesen, who converted on a penalty kick opportunity in the 31st minute to score his first goal as a Mountaineer. Despite the WVU victory, the 49ers held a 16-5 advantage in shots and recorded nine corner kicks in the loss.

Entering the weekend, Pineda is tied for first in the MAC in points per game (4), as well as tied for second in goals (2). Senior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky also is tied for first in the league in shutouts (1), save percentage (1.000) and goals against average (0.00).

Northern Illinois is led by fourth-year head coach Ryan Swan, who has put together a 19-32-4 overall record in his time with NIU. The Huskies enter Saturday’s conference-opening match with a 1-2-1 record in 2021. The squad is coming off a dominant, 10-0 win over Chicago State in its final nonconference game of the season.

NIU junior forward Nick Markanich was named the MAC Player of the Week last week after scoring two goals, along with one assist, against the Cougars. Markanich leads the Huskies with three goals scored this season, as well as eight points and 22 shots. Markanich leads the conference in shots (22), points (8), shots per game (5.50) and goals (3).

Press Release Courtesy of West Virginia University Athletics Communications

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