West Virginia men’s soccer is now looking toward the postseason after defeating Bowling Green at home on Senior Night 2-0 on Thursday.
After a neck-and-neck first half, WVU ramped up the pressure to defeat the Eagles’ high press, and it worked. WVU scored twice out of the break to get ahead of Bowling Green, ultimately riding the lead to the final whistle.
“Obviously, our sis are set on the conference tournament and bringing home some silverware, but the reality of today’s win is I think we’re an absolute guarantee that we’re going to be in the national tournament, which is huge,” said WVU coach Daniel Stratford. “And as I said, I think we sneak into the top 16 in the RPI. We have to be ranked next week, and I think at that point, yeah, we’re very much in the conversation for hosting another game.”
The Mountaineers were dealt a minor blow early in the first half as senior defender Aaron Denk Gracia left the game with an injury. Midfielder Dyon Dromers slotted into his centerback position and the WVU back line didn’t miss a beat as it helped keep Bowling Green scoreless.
WVU wasn’t quite as strong on the other end of the pitch, though, as they also went to the break without a goal, despite the higher volume of chances. WVU got the only shot on target of the half, and had one near-goal negated by an offside call.
The scoreboard didn’t stay like that for long out of the break. The Mountaineers put plenty of pressure on Eagle goalkeeper Brendan Graves in the second half, but Luke McCormick was the first to break him and put WVU ahead in the 61st minute.
A minute later, Frederik Jorgensen added insurance on a rebound.
WVU’s success in the second 45 minutes stemmed from a switch toward the more aggressive, as Stratford opted to put pacier attackers at the top of his formation to help beat the Bowling Green press. He did this with the hope of letting his attacking midfielders get into the box for some chances — and the goals from McCormick and Jorgensen proved that strategy worked.
“They play a high-risk, high-reward style of football, and we were able to turn it into more high-risk than high-reward, especially in the second half,” Stratford said.
Luckily for WVU, Denk Gracia was able to return to the match and play the entirety of the second half. Stratford anticipates the defender will be available for the beginning of the postseason without any hiccups.
West Virginia locked up the 2-seed in the MAC Tournament with the victory. Georgia State also took a win on Thursday night, allowing them to jump Bowling Green and slide into the third spot in the league, setting up a first-round matchup between the Mountaineers and the Panthers.
“Looking forward to it,” Stratford said. “I think first and foremost, we want to digest this and enjoy this a little bit because this is a difficult team that we’ve played today.”