Stratford era begins at Charlotte

Gold and Blue Nation

After more than a year since his January 2020 hiring, Dan Stratford will make his Mountaineer head-coaching debut as the West Virginia University men’s soccer team opens the 2021 spring campaign at No. 25 Charlotte on Friday, Feb. 26. Kick off from Transamerica Field in Charlotte, North Carolina, is tabbed for 5 p.m. ET.

Fans can follow along with the action with a live stream of the match, courtesy of CUSA TV, while live stats can be found at WVUsports.com.

“We’re certainly looking forward to getting underway, it’s been a long time coming,” Stratford said. “Charlotte is a familiar opponent. I know many of the guys still remember the first time they played here in the fall of 2019, which I know was a highly contested game. We’re expecting a really tough test against a very good team that has a fantastic reputation in Division I. It will definitely be a great way to start the season.”

After the Mountaineers’ fall season was postponed due to COVID-19, WVU hits the pitch Friday for the first time since Nov. 24, 2019, and marking the first competitive match of Stratford’s tenure as the program’s 10th head coach.

Friday’s match marks the opening of the men’s soccer team’s 60th season of competition, as the Mountaineers travel to Charlotte for the first time in program history. They take on the 49ers in just the second meeting all-time after the two squads met for the first time in 2019. Last season’s inaugural match between the two programs concluded in a scoreless draw at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, in Morgantown.

WVU owns an all-time record of 33-21-5 in season openers, including 13-16-2 all-time in openers away from home. Friday’s contest at Charlotte marks the fifth consecutive season the Mountaineers will start the season on the road.

The Mountaineers return to action after finishing 10-9-2 in 2019, winning their first Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship, earning the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. WVU made its 14th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, advancing to the Second Round for the second consecutive season and eighth time ever.

Nine lettermen from the 2019 season return to the squad this spring, while the Mountaineers add 12 newcomers to the group. Among WVU’s starting 11 from 2019, six players return to the team this spring, including standout goalkeeper, senior Steven Tekesky, who was named the 2019 MAC Tournament MVP, the first Mountaineer to earn the honor.

Along with Tekesky, seniors Pau Jimenez Albelda, Kevin Morris and Nic Short are set to begin their senior campaigns with West Virginia on Friday.

Additionally, WVU was voted to finish fourth in the 2021 MAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll on Feb. 16.

Charlotte is led by ninth-year head coach Kevin Langam, who has amassed a 98-39-25 overall record. Under Langam’s direction, the 49ers have earned bids to the NCAA Tournament in seven of the last eight seasons, including back-to-back trips to the Second Round in 2018 and 2019.

The 49ers come into Friday’s contest with an 0-1-1 mark so far this season. The squad opened the campaign with a scoreless draw at Duke on Feb. 12, before dropping their home opener against UNC Wilmington, 3-2, on Feb. 20. This season, Preston Popp and Alex Willis pace the team in goals (2) and points (4), while Willis has tallied a team-high five shots, including four on goal.

For more information on the Mountaineers, follow @WVUMensSoccer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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