In his second season at the helm of the West Virginia University men’s soccer team, Dan Stratford guided the Mountaineers to their first Elite 8 appearance since 1981. And though they lost on penalty kicks to third-seeded Georgetown, there are plenty of reasons for cautious optimism around the team, including a #6 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll — the highest in school history.
Former head coach Marlon LeBlanc laid the foundation for Stratford to be successful, but credit must be paid to Stratford for elevating the Mountaineers to a new level of success. Under Stratford’s tenure, West Virginia has won 5 games over ranked opponents, including an upset of the eventual national champion Marshall Thundering Herd in 2020. To give you an idea of why those five wins are notable: those are more wins over ranked opponents in two years than the program had from all of 2013-2019, and twenty percent of the school’s total wins versus ranked opponents.
The 2022-2023 campaign will see the Mountaineers join a new conference as well, joining the Sun Belt conference after a near decade stay in the MAC. The move, which is partially driven by conference alignment, will see the Mountaineers join a conference with a combined 100 NCAA appearances and a former national champion in Marshall.
Stratford will have to do without two big contributors to last season’s elite run with the departures of defender Kevin Morris and keeper Steven Tekesky. Morris started every regular season game, played in all 938 minutes of the season as a team captain, helped the Mountaineer back line complete six clean sheets on the season, and was one of two Mountaineers to play in every minute of the season. Tekesky, who now plays for the Kansas City Comets of the MALS, ranks highly among numerous categories for WVU keepers including third all-time games played (62), fourth in wins (30), shutouts (20), and sixth all-time in saves (165). Other notable exits include forwards Yoran Popovic and Tony Pineda.
While those losses will be felt, particularly in the defensive third, the Mountaineers return a host of attacking players including last season’s leading scorer, forward Ciro Bourlot Jaegg (six goals), and two of the three top assist men in Luke McCormick and Ryan Crooks, who also combined for six goals to go with their four assists each. Defensively, the core of the backline returns with Bjarne Thiesen, fifth-year senior Aaron Denk Gracia, and Frederik Jorgensen.
New faces include several players who will be expected to contribute right away, particularly George Mason transfer Jackson Lee, who is expected to compete for the starting nod in goal. He will be joined by Malo Blondeau, Marcus Caldeira, Noah Gold, Barrett Saul, Yutaro Tsukada, and fellow Spring enrollee Alex Clayton.
WVU Men’s Soccer Schedule 2022-23
|August 12, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Away||Duquesne (Exh.)|
|August 17, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Home||Virginia Tech (Exh.)|
|August 20, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Away||Wake Forest (Exh.)|
|August 25, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Home||Robert Morris|
|August 29, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Away||Pitt|
|September 2, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Away||Penn State|
|September 6, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Home||American|
|September 9, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Home||Yale|
|September 16, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Home||Coastal Carolina|
|September 19, 2022||10:00 p.m.||Away||Portland|
|September 24, 2022||7:15 p.m.||Away||Marshall|
|September 27, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Away||Dayton|
|October 1, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Home||South Carolina|
|October 8, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Away||Old Dominion|
|October 11, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Home||Lehigh|
|October 15, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Home||Kentucky|
|October 19, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Away||James Madison|
|October 23, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Home||Georgia State|
|October 28, 2022||7:00 p.m.||Away||Georgia Southern|