The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

November 29, 2007

WVU men win NCAA soccer opener over Virginia, 1-0

MORGANTOWN — Dan Stratford stood staring straight ahead, the soccer ball on the ground, a picket fence of defenders in front of him, about to unleash a free kick from maybe 20 yards out, a kick that he knew could well carry every hope and dream West Virginia’s men’s soccer team has entertained this year with it.

His Mountaineer teammate, Andy Wright, had been tripped at that spot and now, in this game in which goals were as scarce as touchdowns in a Pittsburgh Steelers-Miami Monday night football game, he knew it could make a difference.

The clock showed 39:55 left in either WVU’s or Virginia’s season.

He looked past the defenders, found the goalkeeper and took note of his position, just as he had a day earlier as he practiced exactly that kick almost to excess. Goalkeeper Dan Louisgnau was giving him something to shoot at.

“He was a little off center,” Stratford recalled. “He showed me the left corner.”

Stratford approached and kicked the ball high and hard, aiming at the upper left corner.

“I started celebrating before it crossed the line,” Stratford admitted. He knew the goalkeeper could never get there.

“I’d have looked pretty silly if it hit the post,” he said.

It didn’t.

It rippled into the netting and gave WVU a 1-0 lead that it would make stand up the rest of the night as the team made history, becoming the first Mountaineer men’s soccer team to advance to the Sweet 16.

That victory over the Cavaliers sets up a Sunday showdown in Winston-Salem, N.C., against No. 2 seed Wake Forest, also of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

It is a daunting challenge.

“We are playing arguably the best team in the country on the road,” said coach Marlon LeBlanc. “But I would not want to take any team other than this team to Winston-Salem.”

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Bob Herzel
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