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msoccer-vs-temple-ben-stitz

Big 12 foe West Virginia proved too much for sophomore midfielder Ben Stitz and the rest of Penn men's soccer to handle on Saturday.

Credit: Son Nguyen

Wild, but not wonderful in West Virginia. 

After allowing an early goal, Penn men’s soccer couldn’t bounce back and suffered its second consecutive loss, falling to West Virginia, 3-0.

The Mountaineers (6-2-1) wasted no time taking control of the game as they pressed the Quakers’ defense. After only nine minutes, West Virginia sophomore Tony Pineda headed the ball in the air, allowing freshman forward Rodrigo Robles Grajera to backheel it into the goal.

The Red and Blue tried to respond quickly. At the 13-minute mark, senior midfielder Brandon Bartel crossed the ball in the box to junior defender Alex Touche, whose shot was saved by West Virginia goalkeeper Steven Tekesky.

While Penn struggled to transition from defense to attack and couldn’t manage to press its opponent, the Mountaineers continued to put pressure on the Quakers, putting up five shots in the first half. This midfield success limited Penn opportunities in the offensive third.

Yet the Red and Blue came back to the second half eager to tie the game. Early on the half, the Quakers were dominant in the offensive side, with three consecutive corners in less than two minutes, all saved by the Mountaineers’ well-placed back line. Penn's best chance, however, came in the 62nd minute, when sophomore midfielder Ben Stitz shot from outside the box, but the strike eventually landed in the Tekesky's hands.

From then on, Penn couldn’t keep up with West Virginia. Less than five minutes later, Grajera scored his second goal of the night following a corner. The result was consolidated with 10 minutes left in the game when West Virginia midfielder Andres Muriel Albino put a shot past sophomore goalkeeper Dane Jacomen.

Being known for their strong defense, the three goals conceded by the Quakers ties the most they have allowed since Brian Gill took over as head coach last season. It was the biggest losing margin of Gill's tenure. 

Despite the imbalance of chances in the run of play, Penn did amass nine shots in the game to West Virginia's 11. Jacomen finished with five saves, one more than Tekesky, his counterpart at the other end of the pitch. 

Interestingly, Penn fared better earlier in the season against ranked opponents, including earning a draw against No. 24 Rutgers on Sept. 17.  

The Red and Blue will try to recover next Saturday when they host Cornell at Rhodes Field for the first Ivy League game of the season. Last year, Cornell defeated the Quakers in the second overtime period on the way to a fourth place finish in the conference. 

The Quakers will look to regain their defensive sturdiness against the Big Red on Saturday. 

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