Colonials “dig in” but fail to top Mountaineers


Hugo Kadima is smothered by two West Virginia players. Photo Credit: Samantha Dutch/Colonial Sports Network

Evan Basista

MOON TOWNSHIP– The RMU men’s soccer team fell 2-0 in their season opener to the West Virginia Mountaineers despite a strong performance overall in their home opener.

RMU (1-0) came into their opener having split their two exhibition matches with a 4-0 loss to no. 3 Pitt and a 2-1 win against Niagara.

This game featured several firsts on many fronts. It was the Colonials’ long-awaited return to the North Athletic Complex after having been away since November 1, 2019, spending the entirety of the 2020 season at the Southpointe Fieldhouse in Canonsburg. Head coach Jason O’Keefe remarked on how important the return game was.

“It’s very exciting and very hopeful that we’re going to be able to continue to play meaningful games and play home games with fans. It’s phenomenal.”

This was also the first game in the collegiate career of 14 RMU freshmen, as there was plenty of roster turnover in the offseason. It was also the first time the Colonials and Mountaineers faced off against each other in Division I men’s soccer. O’Keefe spoke on matching up against the Mountaineers for the first time in history.

“West Virginia is a very good team and very well-coached. That’s why we want to play those teams, so we can see what that’s like and push ourselves to try to get up to that level at some point.”

The game was also the first of the season for WVU after three exhibition matches. The Mountaineers only had six freshmen, and the comparative advantage in experience was evident in this one from the very start.

In the first minute of the game, WVU took an early lead that they would not relinquish, courtesy of Dyon Dromers. The Dutch midfielder deflected a corner kick past RMU goalie Mike Zolnierczyk and into the net.

Despite that early tally, the Colonials played some strong defense early on, with their best player easily being Zolnierczyk. While there were some back-and-forth periods of zone time for a while for both teams, the Mountaineers controlled the play for the majority of the first half. Zolnierczyk had some big saves in the 15th and 23rd minutes as part of some early dominance by WVU.

RMU continued to have a strong defensive showing at the end of the first half, even generating a couple of good looks of their own. However, 45 minutes passed with the Colonials being shut out on the scoreboard and in the shot tally.

The second half started much like the first, with WVU having an early opportunity on a corner kick, but this time it was denied by Zolnierczyk. This early stop lit a spark for the Colonials, as they looked much better in the second frame.

However, Mountaineers goalie Steven Tekesky stood tall and stopped everything RMU sent his way. A free-kick chance in the 54th minute, a corner kick in the 58th minute, and a corner kick in the 60th minute were all turned aside by Tekesky. O’Keefe noted the turnaround from the Colonials in the second half.

“Starting a match and not conceding so early is huge, but they dug in, refocused, got to halftime, and got their legs in the second half.”

After some more back and forth action, WVU started to take control again around the 72nd minute and rode that momentum to another goal a few minutes later. Argentinian forward Ciro Bourlot Jaeggi and Finnish midfielder Otto Ollikainen combined with Jaeggi scoring in the 79th minute to put the Mountaineers up by two. The action remained mostly one-sided for the remainder of the game before reaching a 2-0 final.

RMU starts a three-game road trip this Sunday at Duquesne, while WVU prepares to square off against another Pittsburgh opponent, the nationally-ranked Pitt Panthers, on Monday.