MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Shortly after the jubilant celebrations wound down Sunday afternoon at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, the WVU men’s soccer team pivoted to watch their potential NCAA Sweet 16 opponents take the field. Five hours after the Mountaineers advanced past Virginia Tech 4-3 on penalty kicks Sunday, No. 6 Tulsa blanked Creighton 1-0. No. 11 West Virginia (11-3-5) will face the Golden Hurricane (16-1-1) Saturday at 8 p.m. in a third round fixture.
“We had the luxury of coming home, enjoying the moment, getting to see [Bob] Huggins get to win No. 904 and quickly flipping over to watch Tulsa play Creighton,” said WVU head coach Dan Stratford on MetroNews Citynet Statewide Sportsline.
“We watched that game and I was impressed with what they do. They clearly have a very good identity and a very possession-oriented style. It will be interesting to see two teams match up that both enjoy playing with the ball and see who comes out in that part of the tactical battle. Ultimately at this stage in the season, it is very much results-driven.”
West Virginia and Virginia Tech played to a 1-1 draw through 90 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. In the five-round penalty kick shootout, WVU goalkeeper Steven Tekesky made a pair of saves to lift the Mountaineers over the Hokies.
“The nature of the high emotion penalty shootout can be pretty nerve-racking and difficult for the players. I was proud that they kept their nerve,” Stratford said.
“It is an unfortunate way to finish the game because we truly felt like we were the more deserving team and the better team. And when you get to that stage, it can often feel like it is a coin toss. To get through that and to face those adversities, there’s no saying we might not find ourselves in that situation again here on this stretch. I am pleased to get through it and obviously incredibly proud of the players that we are in the Sweet 16 for just the third time in school history.”
Interestingly enough, Stratford’s first look at Pau Jimenez Albelda’s winning kick didn’t come until watching it on film.
“I actually don’t watch our penalties. I only watch the ones that our opponent takes. Don’t ask me why but it has been a strategy I have kept since I have been a head coach. Thankfully, I have never lost a penalty shootout. Long may that continue,” Stratford said.
“What I didn’t know is that my goalkeeper coach, Nick Noble, he has something similar. He stood on the other side of the fence. He was barely still in the facility when these things were being taken. I thought I was bad until I saw him about ten yards further away on the other side of the fence.”
Tulsa claimed the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships. The Golden Hurricane are unbeaten in their last eight matches. Tulsa entered postseason play ranked second in the national coaches poll.
“I know the weather is going to be better in Tulsa than it is going to be in Morgantown. I am trying to find the positives since obviously we have to go to the higher seed. We have to travel over Thanksgiving, which is never easy. Not only that, but we have to play a very, very good team. At this stage in Division I men’s soccer, it is the sixteen best teams left in the country. Everyone is very much deserving of their place.”
The winner of Saturday’s match will face the winner of the Providence-Georgetown game in the Elite Eight next weekend.