“You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.”
That’s how West Virginia senior Yutaro Tsukada was described Sunday by the ESPN+ broadcast crew in the second half of WVU’s Sun Belt Conference Championship tournament opener. No. 7 West Virginia needed Tsukada to break contain against Georgia State, and he did.
Tsukada scored twice in the second half, with the two goals coming a mere 7:16 apart from one another. His first gave WVU a lead, and his second sent the Mountaineers to the Sun Belt semifinals.
West Virginia won 3-1 behind a trio of second-half goals.
After a scoreless first half, the sixth-seeded Panthers led the third-seeded Mountaineers roughly five minutes into the second half. Georgia State got on the board courtesy of a header by Ethan St. Sassine on a cross into the box in the 51st minute.
Close to 20 minutes later, Tsukada gave West Virginia the lead for good.
Tied 1-1, WVU forced a change of possession in the 69th minute. Tsukada fed a pass to Marcus Caldeira at the top of the box. Caldeira then gave it right back to a streaking Tsukada, who slowed himself down and scored on a dribbler off the right foot that went past his defender and the Panthers keeper.
Tsukada struck again in short order.
Just over seven minutes later, the Tokyo, Japan native rifled a shot from beyond the top of the box and into the back of the net.
The two goals gave him eight on the year, and pushed his season point total to 25 — trailing only Caldeira (26).
Tsukada’s two second-half goals were redemption for a missed opportunity late in the first half. Georgia State committed a handball violation in the box, which set up the senior for a penalty kick opportunity for the second straight game. This time, however, his PK attempt was denied by Georgia State’s Josh Hangi.
Fifth-year senior Luke McCormick scored the initial goal of the afternoon for West Virginia. His fifth goal of the season came in the 56th minute. The Derby, England native collected a rebound of the previous WVU shot attempt, and sent a laser into the net that worked around multiple Panther defenders and the keeper. McCormick now has 14 goals in his Mountaineer career.
WVU keeper Jackson Lee was credited with two saves on the day.
West Virginia advances to Wednesday’s Sun Belt Conference semifinals. WVU’s contest will be played in Orlando, Florida, at the UCF Soccer Complex. The Mountaineers will face either second-seeded UCF or seventh-seeded South Carolina. Those two teams square off beginning at 7 p.m. ET Sunday night.
Dan Stratford’s team played No. 1 UCF to a 2-2 draw in Orlando earlier this season. The Mountaineers defeated South Carolina by a final of 3-2 during the regular season.
Wednesday’s Sun Belt Conference Championship semifinal match will begin at 7 p.m. ET, and will be streamed on ESPN+.