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No. 5 WVU hosts No. 1 Marshall for a monumental matchup in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN — A few weeks in the past, West Virginia males’s soccer coach Dan Stratford encountered a difficulty he’s by no means needed to face earlier than — would he be capable to get sufficient tickets for his gamers’ family and friends to attend a house sport?

On Sept. 27, WVU introduced that the lads’s soccer sport in opposition to Marshall was formally a sell-out, three weeks earlier than the match would really happen.

“I had so many gamers come as much as me within the hours and days after that was broadcast panicking that they weren’t going to get individuals into the sport,” Stratford mentioned throughout a press convention Tuesday afternoon. “Fortunately, we’ve been in a position to accommodate everybody, which has been big.”

Any sport in opposition to Marshall is at all times going to be circled on the calendar, however Wednesday’s matchup (7 p.m./ESPN+) has change into one of the crucial extremely anticipated video games in program historical past.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever bought a sport out on the lads’s aspect,” mentioned Stratford, who’s spent 11 complete seasons at WVU as a participant and coach. “To not solely promote it out however to do it almost three weeks prematurely is unbelievable.”

Each groups enter Wednesday’s match undefeated and ranked inside the prime 10 nationally. Marshall (12-0, 5-0 Solar Belt) is the No. 1 group within the nation and has been for a lot of the season. WVU (9-0-4, 2-0-3) has risen as excessive as No. 2 this yr and is at the moment ranked No. 5.

Stratford, who performed for the Mountaineers from 2004-07, served as an assistant coach from 2011-13 and has been the top coach since 2020, mentioned he has not shied away from acknowledging how massive of a sport this contest has change into.

“We’ve been trustworthy sufficient with the gamers to acknowledge that that is greater than the three factors in convention,” Stratford mentioned. “We might be naive to disclaim the event and simply how distinctive it’s. I might hazard a guess that this could in all probability by no means occur once more the place you’re this late in October, you may have two groups which can be undefeated rating within the prime 5 or so within the nation and it’s an in-state rivalry.”

The most important crowd within the historical past of Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium was 3,000 for a ladies’s sport in opposition to USC in 2007. The biggest for the lads’s group was a match in opposition to UC Santa Barbara which drew 2,938 in 2009.

Stratford mentioned he hopes Wednesday’s crowd will push 4,000.

“I feel it’s an unbelievably distinctive set of circumstances that simply solely add to the event,” Stratford mentioned. “It’s actually necessary that college students particularly get out and we are able to break an attendance document and push 4,000 individuals. That may solely add gas to the fireplace and make it a a lot greater occasion than simply having a convention sport that’s value three factors if we win.”

This isn’t the primary time WVU and Marshall have met in a top-10 matchup, simply the primary time the sport has been in Morgantown. In 2021, WVU was ranked No. 4 and Marshall No. 6 for a sport in Huntington that resulted in a 2-2 stalemate.

That sport drew a crowd of three,033. The rematch in 2022, a 1-0 Marshall victory, had a crowd of two,735.

“There are moments when we’re going to want the group after which there are moments the place our gamers are going to should suppress that and present some restraint and key in on being actually, actually disciplined and centered,” Stratford mentioned. “But when we’re attacking and we get a nook and there are 3,000 individuals cheering us on, I hope that lifts them as effectively.”

Marshall, the 2020 nationwide champion, is 2-1-1 in opposition to WVU since 2019, though the Mountaineers have historical past on their aspect when internet hosting top-five opponents.

“In opposition to top-five opponents at Dick Dlesk since 2006, we’re 5-1-1,” Stratford mentioned. The lone loss got here in opposition to Maryland in 2016, earlier than Stratford had returned to WVU. With Stratford as both a participant, assistant or head coach, the group is 5-0-1 at residence in opposition to top-five opponents.

“I’d like to hold that goose egg tomorrow and stay undefeated in high-level video games,” he mentioned.

As if this matchup wanted any extra intrigue, Stratford and Marshall head coach Chris Grassie share a bond so shut that Stratford regards him as household.

Grassie employed Stratford as an assistant coach on the College of Charleston in 2014 and is an enormous motive why Stratford is now the top coach of his alma mater.

“I owe him loads by way of how I grew in that point,” Stratford mentioned. “I feel I went to Charleston pondering I used to be able to be a head coach and realized fairly shortly that I wasn’t. A whole lot of that’s because of the teachings I realized alongside the best way from Chris.

“Most likely not very best that we’re in one of many most-bitter rivalries there might probably be,”
Stratford joked, “however in some regards, I might nearly somewhat it’s that manner the place we get to play one another on the kind of event we’re going to have (Wednesday).”

Stratford mentioned he and Grassie would get collectively Tuesday evening to catch up earlier than the sport.

“It’s a ache that they occur to be pretty much as good as they’re and so they occur to be in our convention and a rival,” Stratford mentioned. “I don’t assume it can ever change by way of how a lot we get pleasure from seeing each other and catching up.”

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