Defensive tenacity on Stratford’s mind ahead of season opener

Gold and Blue Nation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Before the regular season has even begun, WVU men’s soccer has made some history. 

For the first time ever, the Mountaineers top the MAC preseason poll as the favorite to win the conference. WVU, which will join C-USA next season, last won the MAC regular season title in 2018, and followed that up by winning the league’s tournament in 2019. 

But a new era has begun under second-year head coach Dan Stratford. He returns a slew of talent from his debut season, which took place last spring due to the pandemic. 

During his previous head coaching stint at Division II Charleston, his teams rose to national prominence thanks to their defending. The former Mountaineer midfielder wants WVU to have that type of identity this season. 

“The three years at Charleston, we had the best defensive record in the country all three years. We’re aiming to be that this season as well, and be just a horrible place to come to in the nicest possible way,” Stratford said. “A really, really difficult opponent. An opponent where, when the game’s over and the other team looks, they’re like, ‘wow, don’t want to play them again.’” 

The Mountaineers had better be gritty, or they’ll be in for a hurting in nonconference play.

Three of West Virginia’s first six opponents are ranked No. 11 or higher in the United Soccer Coaches poll. One of those opponents, No. 3 Pitt, reached the national semifinals. Another opponent, No. 1 Marshall, won the whole thing in the spring.

WVU’s opening match is coming up today at 4 p.m. at Robert Morris. The Mountaineers will host the Panthers Monday for their home opener, and will face the Herd on the road Sept. 17.

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