WVU Hosts Irish

The West Virginia men's soccer team moved up to No. 4 in the NSCAA/Adidas coaches' poll, marking a return to the top five just in time for the biggest home game of the year against Notre Dame.

The No. 4 ranking by the NSCAA marks a return to the top five for the Mountaineers (12-1-2, 7-0-1) after dropping to No. 6 last week. This week stands as the first time in school history a WVU soccer team, men's or women's, has ranked in the top five in every major national poll. The program's winning percentage (.867) currently stands only behind Southern Methodist (.933) and Lehigh (.885) among Division I teams.

WVU also retained its No. 1 spot in the NSCAA Northeast Region for the seventh consecutive week. Only the Mountaineers and SMU (Midwest) have held the No. 1 ranking in their respective regions all year.

West Virginia's top five ranking will be put to the test tonight when it faces No. 6 Notre Dame in Morgantown in a match-up of the two highest ranked teams to ever meet at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. Kickoff in Wednesday night's match is set for 7 p.m. and promises plenty of fireworks as the teams enter as two of the highest scoring sides in the country. The Fighting Irish rank first in the Big East and ninth nationally in goals per game at 2.25 goals per game (GPG), while the Mountaineers rank second in the conference and 16th nationally at 2.13. West Virginia forward Jarrod Smith and the Irish's Joseph Lapira have provided plenty of firepower so far this season. Smith ranks second nationally in GPG with 1.08 and Lapira leads the nation at 1.19.

Both teams are also stout defensively as WVU ranks first in the Big East and 18th nationally in goals against average (GAA) at 0.70, while Notre Dame ranks second in the conference and 20th nationally at 0.72. Two of the nation's best goalkeepers will be tending the nets as Nick Noble ranks 13th nationally in GAA (.642), while Notre Dame's Chris Cahill ranks 16th (.669). Cahill has tallied a Big East-best nine shutouts on the season, one better than Noble.

The series between the two teams has been very interesting over the past three seasons as each team has won one match. ND won the 2003 game, 1-0, in South Bend and WVU pulled out a thrilling 1-0 upset victory the following season in Morgantown. In 2005, Smith scored two goals in the match's final six minutes to help the Mountaineers escape with a 3-3 tie. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 6-3-1.

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