MORGANTOWN — The college soccer world fixed its eyes on Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia on Wednesday night as No. 5 West Virginia hosted top-ranked, and undefeated in-state rival, Marshall for the Mountain State Derby in Sun Belt Conference play.
The Mountaineers (10-0-4) defeated the Thundering Herd (12-1-0) 5-2 behind a three-goal effort from sophomore striker Marcus Caldeira and an exceptional second-half effort all around to secure one of the biggest wins in program history.
“What an incredible effort and what a fantastic game,” West Virginia head coach Dan Stratford said. “We felt like we could cause them some problems and get chances and we did, but that’s a quality team we played. That is a huge win for RPI implications and it keeps us in touch in the conference but it’s also a memory that’s going to stick with these young men for the rest of their lives.”
The tone of the game was set from the opening whistle and it took little-to-no time for the scoring to begin as Marshall’s Matthew Bell found himself on the end of a rebounded shot at the back post to tuck the ball away for the game’s opening goal.
The Mountaineers did well in response to the opener and needed only five more minutes to equalize after a ball was given away in the defensive third of Marshall and taken by WVU midfielder Luke McCormick. The Derby, England native played a pass in space for Sergio Ors Navarro who made a good run after possession was taken before slotting home the equalizing goal after 10 minutes played in the first half.
Just over a minute later, WVU found the go-ahead goal with Caldeira scoring his first of the night. Mountaineer keeper Jackson Lee sent a pass to Caldeira who turned with the ball and found himself 1-on-1 with Marshall keeper Gabriel Perrotta, getting the better of the situation and giving WVU a 2-1 lead.
The sophomore wasn’t done by any means, as just 24 seconds later he added his second goal of the night, the third for WVU. Another defensive lapse in defense by Marshall gave Caldeira another look on goal with just the keeper to beat and he took advantage to extend the lead to 3-1 after just 12 minutes played.
“We didn’t panic and we stayed the course to what were trying to do,” Stratford said of his team’s response after going down 1-0. “Obviously it is huge when you can equalize when we did but then it got better and better during that little period of play for sure.”
The Herd cut the deficit in half with a goal by Morris Duggan on a headed goal off of a corner kick at the 17:22 mark in the first half.
No goals would be scored for the remainder after five being scored in the opening 18 minutes. It was nearly 3-3 at halftime as an MU attack saw the ball cleared off of the goal line by WVU defender Frederick Jorgensen with less than five seconds to play until the break that needed a replay review to confirm.
Marshall opened the second half pushing hard for an equalizing goal but the Mountaineers did well to deny any chances for the visitors. Through 15 minutes in the second half, WVU had gained control of the pace of play and was working the ball around the entire field well.
The strong effort was rewarded at the 64:55 mark as Caldeira completed his hat trick with a beautiful curling with his left foot that looped over the head of Perrotta and nestled into the back of the net.
“The one in the second half (was the biggest),” Caldeira said. “It’s always tough when you go in the locker room, even when you’re winning, for 15 minutes and you come out and you try to regain momentum that we had in the first half. But I think the goal that I got in the second half was an absolute mood changer and momentum swing for us overall.”
The fifth and final goal was scored by freshman midfielder Constantinos Christou after his shot from the top of the box took a deflection and sailed into the net, leaving Perrotta with no chance and sealing the victory for WVU 5-2 over the number one team in the country.
“Credit to them and compliment to how well they are built as a team and how good of an opponent they are,” Stratford said. “They’re going to be in the discussion at the very end of this season and I hope this gives us the belief that we can be right there with the best of them at the end as well.”
The Mountaineers will hit the road this weekend for a matchup against Coastal Carolina on Sunday at 7 p.m.