West Virginia University midfielder Sergio Ors Navarro drives with the ball during a match at Dick Dlesk Stadium on March 17, 2021.

West Virginia University midfielder Sergio Ors Navarro drives with the ball during a match at Dick Dlesk Stadium on March 17, 2021.

After a season with four cancellations, the WVU men’s soccer team’s spring season came to an end, and the Mountaineers fell short of their second straight postseason bid.

The final match on the Mountaineers’ schedule was going to be a home match against SIU-Edwardsville, but due to COVID-19 protocols, the match was canceled and effectively end the Mountaineers’ chance at a spot in the NCAA Tournament and a Mid-American Conference Championship title.

Head coach Dan Stratford’s first season leading WVU wasn’t a disappointment, as the Mountaineers came away with a 6-3-1 overall record, and a 4-3-1 conference record. 

Stratford found the schedule this season was very balanced but was disappointed with cancellations that hurt his team’s opportunities.

“There’s been a good balance, quite honestly, to the schedule, but I think we’re always disappointed to miss out on opportunities to play, but at that same time, we’ve had experiences of playing Sunday, Wednesday, Sunday, and then all of sudden we got that break in between, and then another one, when realistically the squad was primed to play,” Stratford said.

The two primary playmakers that led the Mountaineers throughout the schedule included some great talent, such as junior midfielder Ike Swiger from Fairmont. Swiger led the team in goals with four and had a two-goal match against Western Michigan on March 31. Swiger was diligent throughout the season, receiving praise from Stratford, and usually coming off the bench.

Another playmaker for the Mountaineers that will be leaving the roster, however, is two-time All-MAC first teamer and 2018 MAC Tournament MVP Steven Tekesky. Tekesky is a senior goalkeeper from Raymore, Missouri, and has been a staple of WVU’s defense for the last two seasons. Tekesky had the best save percentage in the MAC this season at 83% and recorded 31 saves. 

Stratford influenced his team, best players and role players alike, and gave them a consistent message throughout the season to stay disciplined and follow the system he set out.

“I challenged them to continue to remain disciplined when it’s working and when we’re playing and implementing the system effectively, to stay disciplined, to continue to do the right things and don’t get almost drunk on our success or too greedy,” Stratford said.

Following this strategy, the Mountaineers looked better than their opponents statistically and overall ranked first in margin of victory, as well as first in save percentage in the MAC.

Swiger ended up fifth in total goals scored in the MAC, and freshman defender Jesus De Vicente ranked third in total assists.

Once the season wrapped up, five members of the Mountaineers were awarded All-MAC honors. The first team included two-time All-MAC first teamer Tekesky, as well as Swiger and sophomore midfielder Luke McCormick.

The Mountaineers on the All-MAC Second Team were two seniors, midfielder Pau Jimenez Albelda and defender Kevin Morris.

Although the season ended short, Stratford still has plenty to look forward to with his first season under his belt and he’s been giving his squad a message to work with to reach the next level next season.

 “The message now from a training perspective is making sure they’re really professional and that when we ask them to be really switched on to what we're trying to do tactically and elements of the practice that are really focused on our continued improvement,” Stratford said.