Excitement is growing as students are returning to Morgantown, the fall semester is getting ready to begin at West Virginia University, and WVU sports are about to start back up! Let’s take a look at the top five games for Mountaineer athletics in the first month of the fall semester.
Honorable Mention: Women’s Soccer vs Pitt (August 11th, Exhibition)
This match is just an exhibition, but it’s hard to leave any edition of the Backyard Brawl out of the conversation of top games. The West Virginia women’s soccer team will play their first exhibition match of the season against the Panthers at home. This is also the first game of the month for any Mountaineer team, which is an exciting way to kick off the 2022-23 year for WVU athletics.
5. Women’s Soccer vs Indiana (August 18th)
The first match of the regular season for the WVU women’s soccer team will be against Indiana. This is also the Hoosiers’ first game of the year. The Mountaineers and IU had similar seasons in 2021. WVU went 10-5-5 and IU was 9-5-4, and both teams missed the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers’ season ended with a heartbreaking penalty shootout loss in the Big 12 Conference Semifinals. WVU was much stronger on its home field last year, going 7-4-1 at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. Hopefully, the Mountaineers can kick off the 2022 regular season with a win at home over the Hoosiers.
4. Men’s Soccer vs Robert Morris (August 25th)
The men’s soccer team at West Virginia has shown great improvement with Dan Stratford coaching his alma mater. The Mountaineers went 6-3-1 in his first year as the head coach and finished third in the Mid-American Conference, despite facing pandemic-related challenges. In 2021, Stratford led WVU to a 12-3-6 record, a second-place finish in the MAC, and an NCAA Tournament appearance that ended in a hard-fought loss in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Stratford and the Mountaineers will kick off the 2022 regular season with a match against Robert Morris. Last year WVU defeated RMU 2-0 in the first match of the regular season, which started a ten-match undefeated streak for the Mountaineers. A big win in this match could start 2022 off in a similar fashion.
3. Women’s Soccer at Penn State (August 25th)
The toughest match of the month for the WVU women’s soccer team will be at Penn State. The Nittany Lions made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season and had four wins over ranked opponents. Luckily, the Mountaineers return a lot of experienced players this season. Five players started all 20 games for WVU last year and four of them are returning this fall.
Fifth-year senior Jordan Brewster is back for the Mountaineers’ defense, along with senior goalkeeper Kayza Massey. Brewster played more minutes than any other WVU player last season, and Massey saved over 81% of the shots that she faced. Senior midfielder Maya McCutcheon and sophomore forward Dilary Heredia-Beltran are also returning. Heredia-Beltran had a team-high three assists in 2021, while also leading the team with 25 shots on goal. The Mountaineers will need the experience of these players on the field in 2022, as they look to improve and get to the NCAA Tournament.
2. Volleyball at the Penn State Classic (August 26th & 27th)
Last year the West Virginia volleyball started the season with 10 straight wins over nonconference opponents. The Mountaineers then struggled in Big 12 competition, going 8-8 in the conference, but still made the NCAA Tournament. WVU lost its first tournament game to Illinois, to finish the season with a solid 19-10 record. WVU is returning one of its top attackers, outside hitter Adrian Ell. The fifth-year senior led the team with 354 kills and 432 points last year. The Mountaineers are also bringing back junior Skye Stokes, who led the team with 56 servicing aces in 2021.
The Mountaineers will start the 2022 regular season at the Penn State Classic. WVU will start the event with a doubleheader against Loyola and Duquesne. The Mountaineers will then finish the weekend with a match against the hosting Nittany Lions. Last year WVU defeated Loyola, 3-0, at the ODU Invitational, but the team lost to Penn State, 0-3, in the Mountaineer Invitational. WVU will look to avenge that loss to the Nittany Lions and start 2022 off with a 3-0 record.
1. Men’s Soccer at Pitt (August 29th)
Mountaineer fans have been looking forward to the Backyard Brawl that will start September off for WVU athletics, but there will be a big brawl before that when the WVU men’s soccer team travels to Pittsburgh. The Mountaineers won the 2021 iteration of the Backyard Brawl, with a 2-1 win over #3 Pitt in Morgantown. One of the goal scorers in last year’s match against the Panthers was star midfielder Luke McCormick. The senior from Derby, England, led the Mountaineers with four assists last season and had the most shots on goal, with 20. WVU is also bringing back last year’s leading goal scorer, junior forward Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi. The Argentina native led the team with six goals and 12 points, with 75% of his shots being on goal.
Defensively, the Mountaineers lost their top defender, Kevin Morris, and goalkeeper, Steven Tekesky, to graduation this offseason. But redshirt junior Bjarne Thiesen and fifth-year senior Aaron Denk Gracia are back to lead the WVU defense. Head coach Dan Stratford will be relying on their starting experience to help the team with a new goalkeeper on the pitch, and this match against Pitt will be a great test for the entire team.
Be sure to tune in to support WVU for these games and let us know what other matchups you are looking forward to this month!