MORGANTOWN — The No. 7 West Virginia men’s soccer team concluded its regular season schedule on Tuesday night with another late goal to secure a victory at home, this time against visiting Old Dominion on Senior Night.
Yutaro Tsukada converted a penalty kick in the 90th minute with just 33 seconds left in the match giving the Mountaineers (12-1-4) the go-ahead, game-winning goal.
The Monarchs (5-6-5) equalized late in the second half in the 85th minute with a penalty kick of their own that was buried by Karan Mandair as the visitors looked sure to head home with an impressive draw.
Not long after however, WVU captain Otto Ollikainen earned a foul inside the box of ODU that resulted in a PK with less than a minute left that Tsukada slotted calmly into the back of the net.
With the win, the Mountaineers earn the 3-seed in the Sun Belt Conference tournament and will travel to Orlando for the first game.
“Obviously we are relieved that we won the game and that we found a way late on,” WVU head coach Dan Stratford said. “There are things we will need to improve upon entering postseason play. We weren’t at our best today but we won the game and have to look at the positives. We know we have just had one of the best seasons in program history but also know everything we want to achieve is in front of us.”
The Mountaineers saw the majority of possession on offense in the opening half but each team earned some dangerous chances in the attacking third throughout. Just as it seemed we were headed to a scoreless halftime, the home team found a breakthrough.
A WVU corner kick wasn’t properly cleared by the Monarchs and allowed WVU defender Max Broughton to whip a pass back into the box. After a scrum, Mountaineer defender Carlos Hernando pounced on the loose ball and fired it into the net.
“We had some good build-up and I think the goal came off a second ball after a set piece,” Stratford said. “Carlos is a technical player so when the ball drops to him, even as a defender, I feel confident that he has the quality to finish it.”
Solid defense throughout the second half saw the Mountaineers securing their lead but not cushioning it either. Despite having multiple chances to score, neither team found the back of the net until the late equalizer for ODU from the Mandair penalty kick.
Shortly after, Tsukada converted from the spot as well, giving WVU another late win at home and securing third place in the Sun Belt with a Senior Night victory.
“We’ve had an incredible regular season and hope to carry that into the postseason,” Stratford said. “We want to continue to trust the process we have all season and remember that whilst it can feel like a win-or-go-home situation, what we’ve done to this point has worked and what we’ve done to this point has allowed us to win as many games as we have.”
The Mountaineers will travel to Orlando for the opening round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament and will begin play on Sunday, Nov. 5.