For many people in West Virginia, it would be a dream to put on the Flying WV and represent West Virginia University in athletics.
So, when Fairmont Senior High School’s career leader in goals was given the chance to transfer to WVU, Ike Swiger took the chance and ran with it.
After leading the Polar Bears to the 2015 Class AA State Championship and scoring an astounding 127 career goals, Swiger committed to play at fellow Mid-American Conference school, Bowling Green. There, Swiger started just two matches in his sophomore season and posted two goals and an assist, and he thought a change might be best.
Going into his junior year, Swiger felt that he would benefit by leaving the Falcons’ program.
“I thought it was the best decision for me," Swiger said. "I thought that I should have been playing more, and I wanted to try and see if I could have success somewhere else. I didn't have anywhere else I wanted to go, I just wanted to come back home.”
Donning the gold and blue, Swiger has scored three goals for the Mountaineers in their last two games, including one of the biggest goals in recent program history as his lunging poke was the winner in a 1-0 match against then-No. 8 Marshall. He followed that up with a two-goal effort against MAC opponent Western Michigan.
“I watched these WVU games since I was super young and that kind of started my dream to be a college soccer player,” Swiger said. “It means a lot winning games for my local school, and being able to do it in front of my family and friends means a lot to me.”
In true forward fashion, Swiger was anxious to get on the board and started growing impatient as his first few matches saw no goals despite playing well. However, a slight change in approach has seemingly made the difference.
“At the beginning of the season, I was super dead set on scoring goals,” Swiger said. “I was almost working myself up over scoring goals, but the past two games I’ve been like, ‘I’m just gonna have fun and try and help my team win,’ and that’s been working for me.”
Of course Swiger’s return to West Virginia has coincided with the hiring of Dan Stratford, a two-time Division II National Champion in three years at the University of Charleston. Stratford also made the most career appearances ever for WVU as a player from 2004-07.
With the squad acclimating itself to Stratford’s style and demands, West Virginia finds itself in the thick of the race for a MAC championship title, with the winner being rewarded an NCAA Tournament bid.
“I really like how we’ve been playing. I think we have quality players on this team, so we can possess, keep the ball and build out of the back,” Swiger said. “I think we’re on an upward trend.”
That fight for the regular season championship in the MAC will almost certainly feature Swiger’s former team, who currently sits atop the conference based on winning percentage with a 3-1 MAC record that includes a win over West Virginia.
“I really enjoyed those guys at Bowling Green, and they were some of the best friends I ever made,” Swiger said. “But whenever you’re playing you’re not really thinking about it, you just want to win this game and that’s what I want to do.”