We Win!

A record sellout-crowd of 2,153 fans packed Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium Wednesday night to watch the No. 4-rated West Virginia men's soccer team defeat No. 6 Notre Dame, 2-1.

With the win the Mountaineers (13-1-2, 8-0-1) have now clinched a first round bye and will host the Big East tournament quarterfinals on Saturday, Oct. 28. Game time is tentatively set for 7 p.m. The Notre Dame match featured two Top 10 teams playing before an electric crowd.

"The crowd was fantastic," said West Virginia coach Marlon LeBlanc. "We shattered the attendance record by a thousand and I think it proves that we're catching on in this community. I can't express enough my gratitude to the people that came out here to support this team."

The Irish (11-4-2, 8-0-1) took an early lead when Cory Rellas poked in a rebound off a diving save try by WVU goal keeper Nick Noble. Notre Dame's Michael Thomas was credited with the assist.

"It wasn't a great goal that we gave up," LeBlanc said.

Junior Mountaineer midfielder Dan Stratford knotted the game in the 17th minute when he collected a pass from Andy Wright and buried his third goal of the season. The London, England, native scored on shot from 22 yards out that bent low and away from the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Chris Cahill.

"It was a great finish," LeBlanc said. "It was an important goal because we were down 1-0 and we weren't chasing the game in the second half."

Just 11 minutes into the second half the trio of Wright, Stratford and Smith put together a string of passes to connect on one of the most masterful goals of the season. Wright ended up putting the ball in the back of the net to record his third game-winner of the season. Stratford and Smith were both credited with assists.

"That goal that we scored is as good a goal as you will see at any level," LeBlanc said.

Despite constant Notre Dame pressure, WVU was able to preserve its school-record-tying 13th win of the season and eighth Big East win. The 1966 and 2005 teams also recorded 13 wins in a season while the 1999 squad tallied eight conference Ws. WVU fired nine shots on goal and the Irish answered with eight of their own. West Virginia collected 13 total shots while Notre Dame booted 14.

"As the game started to settle a little bit we were able to exert some more pressure," LeBlanc said.

The match was even sweeter for the home side as it was senior night for Jarrod Smith, Nick Noble, Ashraf Ahmad, Chris Wittig, Matt Anstey and Jyler Noviello.

"If we can put 2,000-plus in this place every single time we play this place will become a fortress for us," LeBlanc said. "Chances are if we keep playing the way we are playing we're going to have a heck of a lot more home games here."

Coach Marlon LeBlanc and the rest of the West Virginia soccer team need one win in their final two games against Providence on the road and Pitt at home to clinch their its ever Big East regular season championship. The Mountaineers will get their first stab at that on Saturday, Oct. 21, when they travel to Providence, R.I., to face Providence Glay Field at 7 p.m.

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