Expectations for the WVU men’s soccer team were high going into the 2022 season, but the team has had a rough season. The team’s next three matches will determine their spot at the 2022 NCAA Division I tournament.
Head coach Dan Stratford’s team head reached the elite eight of the NCAA Tournament, the program’s first quarterfinals trip in exactly 40 years. Along with a majority of returning players from that team, this led to WVU’s No. 6 preseason ranking.
While WVU (6-6-4, 3-1-4 Sun Belt) finished second in its conference standings only to No. 2 Kentucky — and ahead of teams such as No. 6 Marshall — the team’s performance before conference play has left a lot to be desired on their resume ahead of the NCAA Tournament.
Numerous bad results, including a late loss to Yale, led the Mountaineers to a 2-6-1 start, including a 1-6-1 stretch after an opening night 1-0 win over Robert Morris University.
However, following a 4-0 win against the Old Dominion Monarchs on Oct. 8., West Virginia turned its season around. The team has been 4-0-3 since tying the South Carolina Gamecocks at home on Oct. 1, followed by a thrilling 3-3 draw with undefeated No. 2 Kentucky at home on Oct. 15.
While the second half of the season has been great for the Mountaineers, it is hard to call the season anything but a failure if they can’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Thankfully for Dan Stratford and the players, the Sun Belt Tournament gives them a clean slate. All the Mountaineers need to do is win their three next games.
Following wins by Georgia Southern and Marshall on Tuesday, the Mountaineers have dropped from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed, losing a hosting spot in the process.
West Virginia will travel to Lexington, Kentucky, competing on the same side of the bracket as No. 1 seed Kentucky, ranked No. 2 nationally and still undefeated.
WVU is no stranger to high-stakes games against the Wildcats. In their 3-3 draw at home on Oct. 15, the Mountaineers came back after being down 2-0 to lead 3-0, before losing their lead 27 seconds later.
West Virginia will face No. 5 seed Coastal Carolina (5-4-6, 2-1-5 Sun Belt) Sunday afternoon. The team has a history with the Chanticleers as well, drawing them 0-0 in Morgantown on Sept. 16.
The winner will face the winner of Sunday night’s No. 1 seed Kentucky vs. No. 8 seed South Carolina, with the semifinal on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. for a berth in the Sun Belt Final.
Kickoff against CCU is set for 3 p.m. from the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. Streaming will be available on ESPN+ with U92 providing the radio call on 91.7 FM and online at u92themoose.com.