MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (March 14, 2021) – Despite creating several scoring opportunities in the second half, the West Virginia University men’s soccer team couldn’t find the back of the net, suffering its first loss of the season, falling to Western Michigan, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon at WMU Soccer Complex in Kalamazoo.
The Mountaineers (2-1-0, 1-1-0 MAC) conceded their first goal of the season against the Broncos (3-1-0, 1-1-0 MAC). Western Michigan’s Dylan Sing took a cross from the far right and sent a strong shot to the top left of the goal, sailing just out of senior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky’s reach for the Bronco score in the 32nd minute. Down for the first time this year, the Mountaineers couldn’t manage to tally an equalizer in the remainder of the contest.
“The message to the guys after the game was if we continue to play the way we did in the second half and create those chances, we’ll win more games than we’ll lose,” Mountaineer coach Dan Stratford said. “We did a good job of limiting Western Michigan to very few chances, but unfortunately the game came down to a pivotal moment where they took their opportunity and capitalized.”
The Mountaineer offense got started early, tallying a pair of shots before the 10-minute mark that were blocked by WMU defenders. Redshirt sophomore defender Dyon Dromers created the first real opportunity for WVU in the 18th minute, taking a free kick from just outside the 18, but WMU keeper Isaac Walker punched it away to keep the game scoreless. West Virginia’s offense maintained possession and took four corner kicks, their most of the season, prior to the mid-way mark of the first half, but couldn’t manage to capitalize on the chances.
Tekesky’s first save of the match came in the 25th minute after the Broncos sailed a ball in from the corner, but the Mountaineers’ keeper came through with the save. However, just minutes later, Western Michigan capitalized on another opportunity, and Tekesky couldn’t stop it, as the Broncos tallied the lone score of the match.
From there, the Mountaineers were forced to play catchup and play from behind for the first time. West Virginia maintained possession for much of the remainder of the half, as the back line did its job in keeping the ball away from another WMU goal. However, the squad couldn’t create a score before the half, and despite a free kick opportunity at the top of the box in the 35th minute, WVU went into the scoreless.
Coming out of the half in need of a goal, junior forward Tony Pineda took a beautiful cross from junior midfielder Ike Swiger in the 51st minute to create an early opportunity for WVU, but it sailed just over the crossbar. Minutes later, sophomore midfielder Luke McCormick sent another good look into the goal, but the Broncos keeper came up with the stop.
In the 65th minute, junior defender Aaron Denk Gracia committed a tough come-from-behind tackle and a skirmish between the teams ensued, ultimately ending in a red card for Denk Gracia and yellows on redshirt freshman defender Bjarne Thiesen and a pair of Broncos. The Mountaineers were forced to enter the final 20 minutes of the game down a man still in need of a goal.
Following the ejection, the Mountaineer attack created several scoring opportunities, but Walker denied WVU’s chances at an equalizer. With less than a minute to play, WVU was desperate for a score. West Virginia made a run at WMU’s back line, and Pineda sent in a last-second shot from the center of the box that was batted out by Walker, resulting in a WVU corner kick. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Mountaineers ran to the corner flag and sent the ball in, but ultimately came up short in their attempt to tally a last-second goal.
“This was a quality performance, both offensively and defensively, despite the result at the end of the game.” Stratford added. “We saw a very quality offensive performance on the pitch today, and it was a marked improvement from our first two games. The irony is that we lost, but I think that is the beauty of this sport. The key now is that we come away with some confidence and don’t go into the Bowling Green match with our heads down. We need to go into Wednesday with some resilience to help create a winning result.”
After a pair of season-opening matches where the Mountaineer offense has taken limited shots, WVU’s attack came out strong against Western Michigan, tallying 10 shots and six corner kicks. Tekesky notched one save for the Mountaineers in the loss, surrendering the game-winning goal in the 32nd minute. The Broncos recorded five shots and just a pair of corners, while Walker came up with four saves in the contest.
With the win, the Broncos take a 5-4-2 lead in the all-time series, along with a 3-2-1 advantage all-time in Kalamazoo. Sunday’s match marked the first game at WMU Soccer Complex in nearly 500 days, as Western Michigan played at home for the first time since November 9, 2019.
The Mountaineers have a quick turnaround this week, as they look to get back on the winning side at home when they host Bowling Green on Wednesday, March 17, in Morgantown. The match is tabbed for 3 p.m. ET at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium and will be livestreamed on ESPN+.
Press Release Courtesy of West Virginia University Athletics Communications