MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There might not have been a better time for WVU men’s soccer to perform at its highest level of the season.
The fifth-ranked Mountaineers (10-0-4, 3-0-3 Sun Belt) defeated No. 1 Marshall (12-1, 5-1 Sun Belt) in the 2023 Mountain State Derby at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown Wednesday night.
“That’s huge, huge win for RPI implications,” WVU head coach Dan Stratford said. “It keeps us in touching distance in the conference, but it’s also going to be a memory that sticks with these young men for the rest of their lives.”
It was the third time in the last 16 years WVU has defeated the nation’s No. 1 team in Morgantown.
It didn’t take long for the Mountaineers to see what they were up against. In the game’s sixth minute, Marshall forward Matthew Bell buried a putback chance into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Despite the early deficit, the “Let’s go, Mountaineers” chants never rang louder all night, and they were fuel for the WVU attack. The Mountaineers proceeded to score their fastest three goals of the season.
Exactly five minutes after the Marshall goal, WVU delivered the equalizer on a two-on-one opportunity in which Sergio Ors Navarro scored on a slick feed from Luke McCormick.
Fewer than 80 seconds passed before forward Marcus Caldeira broke free off a long feed from WVU goalkeeper Jackson Lee and beat Marshall keeper Gabriel Perrotta for the Mountaineers’ second goal of the night and a 2-1 lead.
WVU’s public address announcer couldn’t even complete the announcement of their second goal before WVU punched in the third score of the game’s first 12 minutes. Caldeira capitalized for his 11th goal of the season 35 seconds after his first of the night off a feed from Otto Ollikainen.
At the inception of the game’s 12th minute, WVU led 3-1.
The play of the night might not have been a scoring one, though, thanks to WVU defender Frederik Jorgensen.
With the final seconds ticking off the clock in the first half and WVU leading 3-1, Marshall forward Joao Roberto chipped a shot over Lee in what looked to be a surefire goal as time expired. Instead, Jorgensen bolted to the aid of Lee and deflected the shot over the goal inches before it crossed the goal line.
“I think it [was] the most pivotal moment of the game, probably,” Stratford said.
The second half was all WVU.
Caldeira completed his hat trick in the 65th minute when he beat Perrotta from the far attack lane on a bender into the near pocket of the Marshall goal. Caldeira’s attack mate Yutaro Tsukada was credited with the assist.
Caldeira’s third goal of the night – his 12th of the season – puts him tied for second for most goals in the nation.
“In a big moment, I wish anyone could experience what I’m experiencing right now,” Caldeira said.
If that was enough insurance, freshman Constantinos Christou provided the icing on the cake with WVU’s fifth goal of the night with a strike from 15 yards out for the 5-2 lead.
Lee finished the night with one save.
Wednesday night was the third time in the last 16 years WVU has defeated the nation’s No. 1 team in Morgantown. The Mountaineers also set an attendance record for both men’s and women’s soccer at Dick Dlesk Stadium with 3,147 fans.
“It can’t be the pinnacle,” Stratford said. “I’ve said that before. I’ve said that in 2021 when we beat Pitt, but if it can be something that gives us a whole ton of belief and confidence that we can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the country, and when we really show the discipline and execution in the tactics we set out today, I mean, it couldn’t have gone more perfect for us in that regard.”
The Mountaineers have three remaining games on the regular-season schedule, starting with a road Sun Belt matchup at Coastal Carolina Sunday night.