MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In the fifth meeting of the No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers (3-0) and the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds (1-1), the pace was set nearly immediately, when the fouls started rolling 40 seconds in. WVU senior forward Ike Swiger put the first of thirty combined fouls on the board in the blink of an eye, but it took another seven minutes for additional action.
The 17th minute added three WVU shots on goal from midfielders junior Luke McCormick, the MAC Player of the Week, who shot two, and fifth year Pau Jimenez Albelda. Loyola’s keeper, grad student Chase Vosvick was a brick wall the entire game, fielding a total of seven saves.
The fouls continued to roll in from both sides in a game that frequently had the fanbase at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium on their feet.
Loyola notched its first yellow card in the 28th minute on freshman defender Jake Mayer. A second yellow card came in the 55th minute, this time aimed at WVU’s senior defender Aaron Denk Garcia, met with a chorus of boos from the Mountaineer faithful. Fourteen minutes later, Loyola sophomore midfielder Marco Bla added the third yellow card of the match just barely outside the 18. The fourth yellow card was given to Loyola freshman defender Sean Graham in the 80th minute. The fifth, and final, yellow card of the match went to Loyola junior midfielder Tony Saldana.
In a game as high-tempo and back-and-forth physical as this one was, WVU head coach Dan Stratford wasn’t too worried about fouls and yellow cards slowing down the speed of play.
“When we have as much territory as we do, we have to be aware that we may need to be counted,” Stratford said. “So, sometimes, it’s the right decision to foul. I wouldn’t say that I looked at the game and said, ‘We were overzealous or reckless or lacked discipline in some of the decisions and some of those fouls.”
At the end of regulation, WVU had 12 shots to Loyola’s half dozen, but both Vosvick and WVU’s fifth year keeper Steven Tekesky kept clean sheets.
“We’ve obviously had a great start to the season,” Stratford said. “We’ve got a number by our names. Teams are going to come here and it’s going to be their World Cup and it’s going to mean everything to stay in the game. You have to respect what they did.”
The Mountaineers entered the first overtime seemingly firing on all cylinders. It wasn’t to be, though, as the team failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities inside the 18. Zero attempts were taken in Vosvick’s direction, but two wide WVU corner kicks could have easily ended the match.
“I think there are a lot of positive we’ll take from what we’ve done tactically tonight,” Stratford said. “I still think there needs to be greater execution in the final third, but it’s not for a lack of talent… We have to execute much better in crossing areas. Too many balls going over the end line from crossing areas, but players won’t be satisfied. That’s why there are some long faces. They know that they had opportunities to really execute in the final third and be the difference and create greater chances than we did.”
The second overtime sped up the game slightly. WVU’s senior forward Tony Pineda had a shot early on, finding space in the 104th minute, but Vosvick was right behind it. It was at this point that the Mountaineer crowd got nervous, as Loyola’s Bla came tearing down the pitch toward Tekesky. His shot sailed wide left, but it was enough to stir up the emotions on both sides. The final shot on goal was in the 109th minute, off the foot of Jimenez Albelda, who cleared it wide right. As the remaining two minutes ticked down, a flurry of Mountaineer throw-ins and corner action knocked WVU off-kilter. The Mountaineers came unhinged and messy in those last moments, as yet another corner sailed far over the goal in the last second of the game to solidify the tie. After 110 minutes of action, Stratford added the second tie of his Mountaineer coaching repertoire.
— WVU Men's Soccer (@WVUMensSoccer) September 7, 2021
“Play that game in another week’s time and it’s another outcome, but it was inevitable that some point this season, we’d be nil-nil at halftime or maybe nil-nil after 90 minutes, so we have to go through that experience…” Stratford said of adding a dreaded tie to his record. “We’re still at the point that we’re undefeated. We still have a fantastic record, and we have some key bits already, but now we have to jump back on the bandwagon and continue to take positives and make sure we’re ready for Ohio State on Friday night.”
Stratford’s team will face the Buckeyes at 7 p.m. for a Gold Rush game.