WVU men’s soccer hopes to carry momentum into second ranked clash vs. No. 17 Penn State

Gold and Blue Nation

West Virginia men’s soccer’s time for celebration was short-lived as the Mountaineers turn their attention to its home clash against No. 17 Penn State on Friday for another ranked non-conference game at Dick Dlesk Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and it will be shown on ESPN+.

It took West Virginia (2-0-0) just two games to add another landmark win to the young resume of the Dan Stratford era. After its first win of the season at Robert Morris, WVU pressed its way to a victory in the Backyard Brawl over No. 3 Pitt on Monday, 2-1.

That win generated some clear positive momentum for the program — and Stratford says his team needs to take it into its next fixture.

“There are a lot of positives and momentum we can take from Monday night’s performance,” Stratford said. “That’s important because this is another ranked opponent and another big-name school. So, while we do need to move on, we need to take some of the best parts from that performance and from that game to help us get over the line here.”

The Nittany Lions (1-0-1) come to West Virginia for their first road game of the season. They most recently hosted Syracuse in University Park on Sunday, notching a 3-0 win over the Orange for their first victory of the season under fourth-year coach Jeff Cook.

Penn State and West Virginia share one thing at this point in the season — they’ve both scored four goals, all of which have been scored by different players. West Virginia sets itself apart with its depth, though — while the Nittany Lions go just four deep into their bench, the Mountaineers aren’t afraid to send out as many as 10 substitutes in a game.

Not many teams can claim a number like that, and Stratford says it is a source of strength for his squad.

“You had two players on Pittsburgh’s team that were on the Hermann Trophy list, and we might not ever have that because our players simply dont play enough minutes because of the rotation of the players,” he said. “Our best player is the depth, and I think that can be one of our strongest assets this season.”

That’s not to say that WVU has lacked quality this season. The defensive trio of Bjarne Thiesen, Kevin Morris and Aaron Denk Gracia have combined to play all but six possible minutes so far this season, while adding a pair of assists from the back line.

They’ll have to work hard to shut down the Nittany Lions attack, which is led by sophomore Peter Mangione after his breakout season of six goals and six assists in 2020.

“I think [Penn State] is a slightly different challenge to [Pitt],” Stratford said. “I think this is a Penn State team that is incredibly hard-working, very good in transition, and not afraid to be a little more direct if they need to be, so it will be a different type of challenge, but that’s the beauty of our sport, there’s a million ways to win.”

Kickoff between the Mountaineers and the 17th-ranked Nittany Lions is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

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