West Virginia men’s soccer was eliminated from the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Wednesday after No. 2 Kentucky shut the Mountaineers out 3-0 at the Wildcats’ Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex.
The unbeaten Wildcats (14-0-5) put on a commanding performance in the second half, building on a one-goal halftime lead to add two quick scores to seal the win. WVU’s offense couldn’t keep up as the Mountaineers (7-7-4) went the full 90 minutes without registering a shot on target.
Casper Grening, who scored a brace in the regular season clash with WVU, picked up where he left off when he scored the first goal with an individual effort in the 24th minute. Grening cut inside to face the WVU backline, only to one-time a deflection with his left foot and slot it into the lower right corner past goalkeeper Jackson Lee.
Lee saved three of the six on-target shots he faced, but the Wildcats finished with 14 total shots.
WVU had the chance to equalize 10 minutes later when Sergio Ors Navarro got an open chance at the Kentucky net, but his attempt went wide left.
The Mountaineers had several chances throughout the match, including two nearly point-blank opportunities at the target. None of them threatened goalkeeper Casper Mols, who was able to atone for his rough showing in Morgantown by completing his fifth clean sheet in 13 starts.
Kentucky added to its lead as the minutes ticked off the clock. Eythor Bjorgolfsson doubled UK’s lead in the 81st minute, bringing his season total to 10 goals, tying the SBC lead. Two minutes later, Enzo Mauriz slotted a shot in to the bottom right corner from outside the box to put the game away.
Nick Gutmann assisted both of UK’s second-half goals. He now leads the Sun Belt with 16 assists, which is seven more than the next-best assister in the league.
Kentucky, currently the second-ranked team in the country, looked to make a case for the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The win sets up an SBC Tournament Final at the Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington against James Madison, which advanced after a 5-0 victory over Georgia State on Wednesday.
WVU’s postseason fate hangs in the balance after its elimination from the conference tournament. The Mountaineers currently sit No. 58 in the NCAA RPI, jeopardizing their chances at making the 48-team field.
The 2022 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament bracket will be unveiled on Nov. 14.