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WVU men’s soccer team gearing up for showdown with defending national champs Marshall

MORGANTOWN — The No. 4-ranked WVU men’s soccer team travels to Huntington for an in-state showdown with No. 6 Marshall on Friday. Kickoff at MU’s Hoops Family Field is set for 7 p.m.

“There’s nothing easy about playing Marshall with their quality,” WVU coach Dan Stratford said. “The reality is that this is an incredibly talented team that we have to face, and it could go either way. It’s going to be a very tight game.

“There’s going to be a huge crowd. But like I spoke to the team, as great as it is to do it at home, I have some incredible memories about going into some places with hostile environments and winning. I hope we have that mindset tomorrow going into the game.”

Friday marks the 24th all-time meeting between the Mountaineers (4-0-1) and Thundering Herd (3-1-1). WVU has largely dominated the series, holding a 16-6-1 advantage over MU, including 6-4 on the road. The Herd, however, are the defending national champions from last spring.

Of note, West Virginia is making its first regular-season trip to Huntington since 2003.

In the most recent Mountain State Derby, senior forward Ike Swiger scored the game-winning goal, thanks to a highlight-reel assist by junior midfielder Luke McCormick, in a 1-0 win over Marshall on March 24 last season at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. The win marked West Virginia’s fourth in a row over Marshall in regular-season action.

WVU jumped up one spot to No. 4 in this week’s United Soccer Coaches Division I Men’s National Poll, which was released Tuesday. It marked the program’s highest ranking in the poll since Oct. 31, 2006, when it also was slotted at No. 4. The Mountaineers also moved up to No. 6 in this week’s College Soccer News poll and remained at No. 10 in the latest poll by TopDrawerSoccer.com.

Last time out, West Virginia capped a four-match homestand by earning a 1-0 win over Ohio State on Sept.10 in Morgantown. Fifth-year senior defender Kevin Morris scored the game-winning goal in the third minute after he found the back of the net off a WVU corner kick. Freshman defender Frederik Jorgensen was credited with the assist.

The Mountaineers are 2-0 against ranked opponents this season. The squad is attempting to earn its second top-10 victory in one season for the first time since 2007. So far, Stratford is 6-0-1 in non-conference games at the helm in Morgantown, as well as 10-3-2 overall.

Marshall is led by fifth-year coach Chris Grassie, who is 48-25-11 during his time in Huntington. Of note, he and Stratford coached together at Charleston from 2014-16.

The Thundering Herd enter Friday’s game with a 3-1-1 overall mark on the year. Last time out, Marshall went on the road to top Bowling Green 1-0 on Sept. 11.

MU was placed at No. 6 in this week’s United Soccer Coaches poll. The Herd hasn’t dropped a decision at home since Sept. 17, 2019.

Vinicius Fernandes is off to a fast start in 2021, posting four goals and three assists in five matches. Vitor Dias, who has notched three goals and three assists so far this fall, was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List last month.

Fans can follow along with all of Friday night’s Mountain State Derby action with live stats, courtesy of herdzone.com. Additionally, the match can be seen live on ESPN+.

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