West Virginia men’s football now looks to the playoffs after beating Bowling Green at home on senior night 2-0 on Thursday.
After a neck-and-neck first half, WVU stepped up the pressure to defeat the Eagles’ high press, and it worked. WVU scored twice at the break to overtake Bowling Green, eventually taking the lead until the final whistle.
“Obviously our sister is ready for the conference tournament and bringing home some silverware, but the reality of today’s win is that I think we are an absolute guarantee that we will be in. the national tournament, which is huge, ”said WVU coach Daniel Stratford. “And like I said, I think we’re sneaking into the RPI top 16. We have to be classified next week, and I think at that point, yes, we are in the middle of a discussion to organize another game.
The Mountaineers received a minor blow early in the first half as senior defenseman Aaron Denk Gracia left the game with an injury. Midfielder Dyon Dromers tucked into his center-back position and WVU’s backline didn’t miss a beat as it helped keep Bowling Green scoreless.
WVU was not as strong on the other end of the pitch as they also went to the break scoreless despite having more chances. WVU got the only shot on target of the half and saw a close goal canceled by an offside appeal.
The dashboard did not stay that way out of the break for long. The Mountaineers put a lot of pressure on Eagle keeper Brendan Graves in the second half, but Luke McCormick was the first to break him and put WVU ahead in the 61st minute.
A minute later, Frederik Jorgensen added confidence on a rebound.
WVU’s success over the next 45 seconds stemmed from a turn to the more aggressive, as Stratford opted to put calmer forwards at the top of their lineup to help beat Bowling Green’s press. He did so in the hopes of letting his attacking midfielders enter the box for some chances – and goals from McCormick and Jorgensen proved the strategy worked.
“They play a high risk, high reward style of football, and we were able to turn that into higher risk than high reward, especially in the second half,” Stratford said.
Fortunately for WVU, Denk Gracia was able to return to the game and play the entire second half. Stratford expects the defender to be available for the start of the playoffs without any issues.
West Virginia locked up the MAC tournament seed 2 with the win. Georgia State also picked up a victory Thursday night, allowing them to jump to Bowling Green and slide to third place in the league, setting up a first-round clash between the Mountaineers and the Panthers.
“I can’t wait to be there,” Stratford said. “I think first and foremost that we want to digest it and enjoy it a bit because it is a difficult team that we faced today.”