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WVU Men’s Soccer

PK Success Key for WVU Men’s Soccer, Downs Elon 3-1

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU head coach Dan Stratford doesn’t watch his players take penalty kicks.

It’s nothing personal, he says. It’s a superstition that has paid off in the past… and today was no different.

When Elon entered Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium on Oct. 23, the 6-5-2 Phoenix were prepared for a scrappy game. It only took 16 minutes for the team to put one behind WVU’s fifth year goalkeeper Steven Tekesky. It was marked as a WVU own goal, but it nevertheless put the first opponent point on the board.

“I was frustrated with the goal, quite honestly, because it lacked defensive urgency,” Stratford said. “You can have all the statistics in the world, but the only one that really counts is the scoreline at the end of it. You can feel like you have more territory, more possession, more chances, more corners, and you can still lose the game.”

Elon came out, objectively, more than the No. 25 Mountaineers could handle in the first half. Battling back against the press cost WVU five fouls and a yellow card booked to redshirt sophomore defender Bjarne Thiesen for an excessive slide tackle. For lack of a better word, WVU was getting bodied off the ball. What should have been a fairly easy end to the non-conference schedule turned into a 1-0 halftime deficit for the Mountaineers.

When the second half began, WVU felt like a different team. The communication breakdowns between the strikers and midfielders had been nearly completely mitigated, and WVU appeared to be playing the kind of 11-man soccer that Mountaineer fans have become accustomed to. Second half possession stayed in the Phoenix’s half for 66 percent of the touches, a striking indication that what Stratford had orchestrated at halftime was paying off.

After one unsuccessful corner kick in the 55th minute, the Mountaineer kept control inside the Elon 18, getting another chance for a set piece less than a minute later. Sophomore midfielder Ryan Crooks, who had been flying around the field early in the game, slowed down and dropped a beautiful ball inside the six and right to the feet of Thiesen, who found the back of the Elon net. Suddenly, the score was tied at one.

“With the corner, it was obviously important that we got that equalizer when we did,” Stratford said.

Tying the game was a momentum shift that the Mountaineers fed off. When each touch found at least man coverage, the fouls began to get dangerous. Now that their lead has evaporated, the Phoenix were out for blood, and the team got called on it.

A questionable yellow card was handed to WVU fifth year center back Kevin Morris before the field ref sprinted over to the Phoenix sideline. He had a few, terse words with Elon head coach Marc Reeves, who was livid, before issuing two separate yellow cards to the entire coaching staff and Elon bench, as well as one to freshman midfielder Calle Edelstam.

After the slew of yellow cards given to the Phoenix, the game’s scrappy play finally resulted in a penalty kick for the Mountaineers. It was the first PK of WVU’s season, and an unanticipated player stepped up to the spot: sophomore forward Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi.

“It was funny because we’ve worked on them this season, and we had a few people in mind, and the irony of the first one, no disrespect to Ciro, none of them were on the pitch to take it,” Stratford said with a laugh. “Ciro pointed out it straight away and picked the ball up, and I think when your striker does that, you have to give him the opportunity and back him to take the penalty, but I don’t watch them, so I’ve heard they were both good, but I haven’t seen them.”

Bourlot Jaeggi’s attempt rocketed behind Elon backup goalkeeper, redshirt freshman Cam Pelle, and the Mountaineers took the 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

A scrum ensued, forcing two yellow cards and a red card aimed at Elon’s entire defense: junior Vermund Hole Vik, sophomore Jannik Videbaek, and senior Christian Lauenborg, respectively. This set up WVU’s fifth year midfielder Pau Jimenez Albelda for the second penalty kick of the night, an opportunity which he capitalized on in the 85th minute.

Unable to retaliate, the Phoenix dropped its third game of the season, falling to 6-5-3. Conversely, Stratford’s Mountaineers earned an eighth win to head into the remainder of MAC play riding high. The 8-2-4 WVU team will see Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium again on Oct. 28, when West Virginia welcomes Georgia State at 3 p.m. Admission is free to the public.

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