The No. 11 seed West Virginia men’s soccer team will look to make it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 as they host Virginia Tech on Sunday at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
The Mountaineers (11-3-4) come into this match having not played since they lost in the MAC Tournament semifinals on Nov. 11. West Virginia will also look to win their first match since Nov. 4, when they beat Bowling Green 2-0.
Head coach Dan Stratford said he felt his squad’s body of work was deserving of an at-large bid, although he was somewhat surprised at being able to get a national seed in the tournament.
"This is definitely a pleasant surprise," Stratford said. "I think we were still confident that our body of work and the quality of our competition that we faced was going to work in our favor. So, the intent was always to give us the absolute very best chance for us to be an at-large and be seeded, and I think we are very worthy of this. But we are very grateful, and hopefully can do the seed justice."
West Virginia has been paced this season by two of the more younger players on the roster. Sophomore forward Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi led the Mountaineers in goals scored this season (6) and freshman defender Frederik Jorgensen has scored three goals on the season, including one in West Virginia’s most recent win against Bowling Green.
The Mountaineer defense was also a factor throughout the regular season, as West Virginia only allowed 12 goals this season, which was the lowest total in the conference. Senior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky ranked seventh nationally, allowing only .635 goals per game.
Virginia Tech takes on the Mountaineers after defeating Campbell 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
The Hokies were able to get the win, getting goals from two of the more unlikely players on the Virginia Tech roster. At the 40:29-mark, Virginia Tech senior defender Kyle McDowell scored his second goal in as many games, but this was only his second goal of the season.
After Campbell responded with a goal in the 55th-minute, it was Hokie senior forward Kahlil Dover who scored the eventual game winning goal in the 72nd-minute. Dover had not scored since Oct. 8 and this was only his second goal of the season, but it proved to be enough to push the Hokies to the second round of the tournament.
Despite West Virginia not having played a tournament game this year or last year, and despite not having played a match in 10 days, Stratford says he feels confident in West Virginia’s home success throughout the year.
"We will be very quick to remind our players that we are unbeaten at home through 10 games," Stratford said. "There's an argument to be made that having played and winning a game in the Tournament is helpful. But we get a little more time to rest and recover and to build up to our game."
West Virginia and Virginia Tech have not faced off since 2015, and the winner of this matchup will move onto the Sweet Sixteen where they await the winner of Creighton/Tulsa.
The Mountaineers and Hokies are set to kickoff at 1 p.m. on Sunday, and the match will be televised on ESPN+.