MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — West Virginia men’s soccer wanted a win, but it walked off the pitch equally happy, relieved and disappointed in its 3-3 draw with No. 2 Kentucky on Saturday.
WVU overcame an early 2-0 deficit built by the Wildcats in the first 11 minutes of the game, scoring three unanswered goals to take the lead, including a brace by Dyon Dromers. That advantage lasted just 23 seconds, however, as Wildcat midfielder Casper Grening completed his own brace to equalize.
“We were so close,” said WVU coach Dan Stratford. “That would have been one hell of a comeback. It would have been the best comeback that I’d ever been associated with as a coach.”
Kentucky needed just five minutes and 50 seconds to silence the more than 2,000 Mountaineer fans in attendance as Luis Grassow made an acrobatic finish off a set piece to give the Wildcats their first goal. Grening doubled the lead in the 12th minute with his first score.
WVU cut into the lead in the 24th minute when Yutaro Tsukada drove a cross in front of UK goalkeeper Casper Mols and found Adam Burchell in the box for WVU’s first goal.
The Mountaineers equalized in the 61st minute off a corner kick. Frederik Jorgensen looped a cross into the box on the set piece and found Bjarne Thiesen for a clean header, but the ball bounced off the crossbar. After a chaotic second, Dromers came through the crowd and nudged the ball in with his head to level the match.
Dromers came through again 17 minutes later, taking a rebound from Mols and making a composed finish on the roof of the net and putting the once-silenced Mountaineer fans into a frenzy.
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The frenzy lasted just seconds, though, as Kentucky sliced through WVU’s defense to set up Grening to even the match again.
Kentucky kept the momentum for the remaining 12 minutes of play, threatening WVU goalkeeper Marc Bonnaire several more times in the second half. As the final minute ticked away, however, WVU was the team with the winning chance as it earned a corner kick with minutes remaining.
Jorgensen again looped a cross into the box and connected with Sergio Ors Navarro, who headed it on target. Mols leaped to make the save, and barely trapped the ball inches away from the goal line to solidify the draw.
“We were probably six inches away from winning the game 4-3 in that stage as well, and that again would have just made it an incredible night,” Stratford said. “It was still an incredible game with a lot of high value for our customers and for our fans.”
That was Mols’s second save of the half and third of the game. Bonnaire recorded four saves in the contest.
Dromers recorded his first career brace in the win. The midfielder has shown a penchant for goalscoring throughout his career, highlighted by his long-range score in 2021 that landed on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays. This has happened despite the fact he has been used in a more defensive position, even starting the 2022 campaign out as a center-back.
That has changed in the last three games. Stratford has shifted his formation, and with it, he has decided to use Dromers in a more forward position, and it seemed to pay off against No. 2 Kentucky.
“It’s his ball-striking, it’s his threat if he can get on the end of crosses, obviously set pieces is a big, big piece,” Stratford said. “Again, I think it’s kind of reinvented him a little bit…he’s been the player that’s had the biggest change and he’s embraced it. He’s come with a really open mind and a lot of positivity and he seems to be enjoying it.”
Both teams add a point to their totals in the Sun Belt Conference standings with the draw. Kentucky remains at the top of the league with 11 points after Marshall fell to Georgia State earlier in the day. West Virginia moves to six points, putting the Mountaineers two games behind the league lead.
The draw also invigorates the Mountaineers, who are looking to improve their resume for the NCAA Tournament.
“You’re at a point now where you can’t help but look a little bit ahead towards the finish line, and we know what we need to do,” Stratford said. “We need to win the next three games, we need to be as high as possible going into the conference tournament….If we can get three wins and get a quarter-final win, [our NCAA Tournament chances] will be close. It will be really, really close.”
The Mountaineers return to the pitch on Wednesday when they travel to face James Madison. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET.