No. 21 WVU men’s soccer faces Georgia State to open MAC Tournament

Gold and Blue Nation

The West Virginia men’s soccer team entered the fall 2021 season feeling they had been robbed of a postseason trip in the spring — Thursday, the 21st-ranked Mountaineers embark on their first championship run when they kick off against Georgia State in the MAC Championship Semifinals. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET at the NIU Soccer and Track and Field Complex in DeKalb, Illinois.

WVU (11-2-4, 4-1-1 MAC) locked up the second seed in the league tournament after defeating Bowling Green 2-0 in its season finale. Almost simultaneously, the Panthers (11-5, 3-3 MAC) jumped Bowling Green as they edged Georgia Southern in extra time.

That set up the Mountaineers’ first postseason showdown in the era of head coach Daniel Stratford, as the league championship was cancelled in the spring, and the team missed out on the NCAA Tournament.

“This week is all about pushing toward one of our big goals of the year: Winning a conference title,” Stratford said. “While we feel very confident in our NCAA Tournament resume, we can still bolster it even more with a successful trip to NIU. We played this Georgia State team just a couple weeks ago, so there’s obviously some familiarity there. We’re just excited to get to this part of the season; this is where the results really count.”

Georgia State faced West Virginia on Oct. 28 for the second time in program history, with the Mountaineers notching a 2-1 victory. Stratford’s side leads the Panthers, having taken both meetings between the programs.

WVU heads to DeKalb with the toughest defense in the league, allowing 0.65 goals per contest in the fall season. Led by All-MAC second team selections goalkeeper Steven Tekesky and defender Kevin Morris, West Virginia has yet to allow more than two goals in a game so far this year.

Sophomore striker Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi, the third-leading scorer in the league with six goals, also earned second team honors, while midfielder Luke McCormick topped the list as a first team selection.

The Panthers have struggled on the defensive end of the pitch, allowing 20 goals so far this season, and an average of 1.25 per match.

The victor of the semifinal matchup earns a spot in Sunday’s MAC Final game, which kicks off in DeKalb at 1 p.m. ET. That squad will face off against either Bowling Green or top-seeded Northern Illinois.

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