The No. 4 West Virginia men’s soccer team will be looking to get back to their winning ways coming off two straight draws on Saturday night against Northern Illinois in DeKalb, Illinois.
It has been a struggle for the Mountaineers (6-0-4, 0-0-1 MAC) to find that clinical edge as of late, as WVU hasn’t been able to get the go-ahead goal late in games.
Saturday brings a tough challenge against Mid-American Conference foe Northern Illinois (9-1-0, 1-0-0 MAC), who is coming off a 3-0 win over Western Michigan. The only loss for the Huskies this season was against Notre Dame in September.
“Every team is very competitive,” WVU head coach Dan Stratford said. “There are truly no easy games, NIU only has one loss on their record. It’s gonna be a tough go of it.”
On Oct. 5 against Lehigh, the Mountaineers found the back of the net just after the opening kick in the first minute, but allowed Lehigh to gain an equalizer in the 75th-minute. West Virginia couldn't find the late goal to put away Lehigh, it’s fourth draw on the season.
Despite the multitude of draws, the Mountaineers’ unbeaten run to start the season is the longest in program history, besting the mark set by the 2013 squad.
WVU has been one of the best defensive teams in the country as of late, as the Lehigh goal on Tuesday was the first goal conceded by fifth-year senior goalkeeper Steven Tekeskey since mid-September. The Mountaineers are outshooting their opponents 143-75 this season.
In addition to the great defense, the normally high-powered offense has gone through senior Yoran Popovich, who currently leads the Mountaineers in goals scored with four. Fifth-year senior Pau Jimenez Albelda leads WVU in assists with three.
West Virginia has been a thorn in the side of NIU ever since the first meeting in 2012. West Virginia holds the all-time series lead at 4-5-2, but it’s been tough sledding in recent years for the Huskies, who haven’t defeated the Mountaineers since 2018.
The Huskies are led by fifth-year head coach Ryan Swan and feature a high-powered offense including the reigning MAC Player of the Year senior Nick Markanich. Markanich is one of the best scorers in the entire country, and already has 12 goals scored through the first 10 games of the season.
“It’s about remaining consistent -- from game to game,” said Stratford. “How we approach a game, but at the same time we have to still have to play with confidence, but you don’t want there to be any complacency, any content. It’s been a very, very good start but it is by no means the end.”
Kickoff against Northern Illinois is set for 4 p.m.