MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia might not be in first place in the MAC, but it does lead the nation in an important category.
The Mountaineers rank No. 1 in RPI through matches played April 4. The MAC team with the next best RPI is Bowling Green at No. 20, and then upcoming opponent Akron at No. 31.
West Virginia (5-2, 3-2) rides a three-game winning streak into Wednesday’s match the Zips (3-2-1, 2-2), the team that was picked to finish first in the conference. The Mountaineers have also earned marquee nonconference wins this season on the road at Charlotte and at home against then-No. 8 Marshall.
In his first season at the helm, head coach Dan Stratford has made it clear that the team’s goal is to reach the NCAA Tournament. In an exclusive interview for the WVU Coaches Show, he noted that his squad is on course to meet that goal, but it’ll need to finish the regular season with more strong showings.
“We have a fantastic platform to obviously kick on, and hopefully win our conference, and then certainly qualify for a slightly smaller field here for the national tournament as well,” Stratford said. “We’re in a great position now, and as I said, we’re progressing nicely. If we can continue to trend in the way that we have, then we expect to be a tournament team at the end of this spring, and that’ll be a great achievement under all the circumstances for sure, pandemic included.”
As a response to the pandemic, the NCAA will hold this year’s men’s soccer championship in North Carolina with a condensed field. The 36-team tournament is scheduled to begin April 29.
The Mountaineers last reached the NCAA Tournament in 2019, when they earned an automatic qualification by winning the MAC Championship. They also reached the national tournament in 2018 after winning the conference’s regular season crown.
West Virginia will face Akron Wednesday at 7 p.m. The first meeting between the two teams, originally set for March 31 in Morgantown, was postponed. WVU has only defeated Akron twice since joining the MAC in 2012.
Tune in to a new episode of the WVU Coaches Show this weekend to watch the exclusive interview with Stratford. Check your local listings for details