Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi (9) blows a kiss to the camera during 2-1 victory over Georgia State at The Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium on Oct. 28, 2021.

Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi (9) blows a kiss to the camera during 2-1 victory over Georgia State at The Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium on Oct. 28, 2021.

The West Virginia men's soccer team has big shoes to fill, coming off a record-breaking season and ranking first in its new conference. The key for WVU can be summed up in one word: continuity. 

A season ago, the Mountaineers went 12-3-6 (4-1-1 MAC) in the Mid-American Conference. This season, however, they'll face off in the Sunbelt Conference, which they have been predicted to win in a preseason coaches poll.

In 2021, WVU went to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history, falling to Georgetown in the Elite Eight. Since then, not much has changed for the Mountaineers.

For the West Virginia, nine players who made a significant amount of starts for the team are returning for 2022.

The 2022 season will also bring another first, as the Mountaineers will be without the WVU record holder in minutes played and two-time All-MAC selection Steven Tekesky at goalkeeper.

WVU head soccer coach Dan Stratford said that the open competition at goalkeeper between sophomore Marc Bonnaire and Jackson Lee, a junior transfer from George Mason is "effectively a two-man race," adding that freshman Lorenzo Nunez and fifth-year captain Jacob Castro would be "right in amongst that" if not injured.

No. 6 ranked WVU will also be without former co-captain and starting centre back Kevin Morris, who set program records for minutes and games played in his fifth and final season. The Mountaineers will also be without striker Yoran Popovic and midfielder Pau Jimenez Albelda.

Fortunately for West Virginia, junior striker Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi led the team in goals last season, despite only starting seven games. And Finnish central midfielder Otto Ollikainen made some starts last season, potentially giving WVU easy in-house replacements.

Headlining the other returning players for the Mountaineers are centre back Bjarne Thiesen, central midfielder Ryan Baer and right-winger Luke McCormick.

Thiesen, a junior from Kiel, Germany, was named the 26th best player in 2021 following a Third-Team All-American season. Baer, a junior from Huntsville, North Carolina, was selected to the Third Team All-North Region by United Soccer Coaches.

McCormick, a senior from Derby, England, was named to the All-MAC First Team and led the Mountaineers in goals last season.

West Virginia will begin its season at home, opening up at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium against Robert Morris on Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.

Sports Writer

Jake Howard is a senior journalism major and sports communication minor at WVU, from Leesburg, Virginia. Jake is a lifelong sports fan, he covered sports on YouTube previously and now writes about sports for the DA.