The No. 21 West Virginia men’s soccer team had a historic year and one of the main reasons for that success was going undefeated in home play.
The Mountaineers were able to defend their home turf at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium by securing the eight wins and although tying a couple times, the team did not lose at home. a
“You definitely need a little bit of luck, but you also need players that believe in what they’ve done throughout the regular season I think you should feel like you can take a ton of confidence from what you’ve achieved up to that point in the season which is absolutely the case for us this season in what we’ve done and the quality of competition we’ve faced,” explained WVU head coach Dan Stratford on his team’s string of success at home this season.
West Virginia’s opening home match of the season came in the Backyard Brawl as then-No. 3 Pitt traveled an hour south and took a 2-1 defeat at the hands, mainly feet of the Mountaineers. Junior midfielder Luke McCormick toed a ball into the net 20 minutes into regulation before senior forward Adam Burchell sent a ball past Pitt goalkeeper Nico Campuzano for the lone goal victory.
Later in the week on Friday, September 3 the Mountaineers were able to beat their second ranked opponent in a single week, then-No. 17 Penn State. The match saw freshman defender Frederik Jorgensen, redshirt sophomore Bjarne Thiesen and fifth year midfielder Pau Jimenez Albelda each chip in goals in the 3-1 win.
“I think they’ve (goals) come at the right time for us, I think it got to a point really where you had to address the elephant in the room that we were struggling a little bit to convert the quality of chances we were making so for the players now to see some of them hit the back of the net and hopefully build some confidence from that stand point,” Stratford said of his goal scorers
West Virginia played their second well executed game in a span of less than a week and marked the first time the team had accomplished the feat since October 18-21, 1998. The victorious match for West Virginia featured the team taking the lead near the end of the first half on the first goal of the night off the foot of Jorgensen while never surrendering the lead through the entire 90 minutes.
West Virginia then won three more games at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadiun in the month of September first knocking off Ohio State on September 10, 1-0. Then nearly 10 days later, the Mountaineers came back home to face off against Dayton and won that one, 3-0 before handling business against St. Bonaventure on Sep. 25, 4-0.
The trio of home slate matchups for West Virginia saw fifth year defender Kevin Morris and senior forward Yoran Popovic net a pair of goals each as Morris’ lone goal against Ohio State sealed the game winner on one kick.
Popovic’s goals were delivered 19 minutes into the match against Dayton which was the first goal of the night as well as in the final minute of action versus St. Bonaventure.
The Mountaineers were then able to round out their home regular slate of the season when they knocked off Elon 3-1 on October 23, then beat Bowling Green 5-0 to close out the regular season on Nov. 4.
“We want to win a conference tournament here, want to give ourselves the best opportunity to do that and to ultimately see if we can get back into the top-16 conversation and be seeded in the national tournament so we’re looking far more at what’s in front of us and what’s still to achieve then making sure we squeak into the national tournament. I think the objectives and ambitions of this program are far bigger than simply just making the NCAA tournament,” Stratford said.
The Mountaineers were just recently beaten by Georgia Southern in the MAC Championship Semifinal in DeKalb Illinois on Thursday evening, 1-0. Now they will wait to see where they will be seeded in the NCAA tournament on the men’s soccer selection show on Monday at 1 p.m. ET.