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UDMSOC: Dayton Holds Off West Virginia 2-1
UDMSOC: Dayton Holds Off West Virginia 2-1
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
Smile UDMSOC: Dayton Holds Off West Virginia 2-1

Two first half goals in a span of 30 seconds was enough to withstand a furious second half effort by West Virginia to top the Mountaineers 2-1 on a cool Tuesday evening at Baujan Field. The #19-ranked Flyers keep their undefeated record in tact by improving to 7-0-1 (1-0-1) while WVU falls to 2-6-1.

The Mountaineers and Flyers have battled a handful of times in the last few seasons and the budding rivalry has turned highly competitive. While WVU came into Tuesday's match with an unimpressive record, they were battled-tested against the likes of Pittsburgh, Marshall, Penn State, and Portland -- and thus unlikely to be unintimidated.

Dayton got off to a great start in the opening minutes of the match by controlling both ball possession and tempo as they pushed forward with numbers and pace to force WVU into an early defensive posture. Whether individually or by committee, UD wasted no time attempting to get the ball into the Mountaineer goal box where good things can happen. Dribble-drives within the central third of the pitch helped that cause, as well as service down the touch lines that resulted in a handful of dangerous crosses into the penalty box. For the first 10 minutes, it was Dayton firmly in control.

The Flyers took a two-fisted grip on the match in a span of 31 seconds just moments later. Forster Ajago settled a ball at the six-yard line and side-volleyed it into the net to give UD a 1-0 advantage in the 14th minute. Seconds after the restart, UD once again collected possession and pushed forward, wasting no time to extend the lead when Basit Umar took a shot from just outside the goal box and bounced it off the far post to put the Mountaineers down 2-0 and in a heap of trouble. The tenor of the match had changed completely in the blink of an eye and the Mountaineers were as shocked as they were disheartened.

From there, UD kept the pedal to the metal and probed the WVU defensive half with more strong play, much of it from quick 1- and 2-touch passing or feisty dribbles and cut-backs to open up space for other players nearby. West Virginia's best chances came on counter-attacks building out of the back -- especially down the flanks where they managed to send a few crosses into the Flyer goal box. The UD back line as well as goalkeeper Dario Caetano were there to clean up the danger and preserve the two-goal lead.

The match became more physical in the last 15 minutes of the first half as several dangerous tackles forced players to the ground and drew fouls and cards from the referee. Dayton had several good chances to tack on another goal before halftime but were unable to connect inside the box for a quality redirect.

Halftime stats favored UD in shots 9-4 and corner kicks 3-0.

If Flyer fans were hoping the Mountaineers would pack things up for the second half, the exact opposite happened. WVU coaches apparently pulled out a gem of a speech during intermission because their overall effort and play was a night and day difference compared to the first 45 minutes. They pursued the ball with harder challenges, worked the ball to the open field, and played at a much faster pace that forced Dayton to do a lot of chasing and defending -- the main storyline to the end of regulation.

Ten minutes into the second half, WVU took control of the run of play and pushed the Flyers into extended stretches where they had trouble clearing balls from their own defensive half of the field. The consistent pressure continued and before long UD had lost some of its own offensive punch due to a lack of sustained possession. To their credit, Dayton's team defense held firm and kept the Mountaineers off the scoreboard. As the match continued however, WVU's persistence would eventually cash in and find the back of the net.

Their hard work finally paid off in the 82nd minute on a cleanup in the mixer to cut the Flyer lead to 2-1 -- but it may have been too little/too late. With less than 10 minutes remaining, they had work to do and not much time to do it. Those final minutes were tense sessions of critical Dayton defending as WVU continued to dominate the ball and keep the Flyers pinned back into their defensive third. A few important loose-ball victories, fouls against, and long-ball clearances were enough to salt the clock away and hold on for the important 2-1 victory at home.

Second half stats still favored Dayton in shots 7-6 and corner kicks 3-1, but the numbers belied the turnaround West Virginia showcased in the final 45 minutes which included far more overall ball possession and dangerous attacking chances inside 25 yards. For a while it seemed like the Flyers were holding on for dear life as their dominating play and control of the match enjoyed for much of the first half had vanished after halftime. Whether that was UD's failure or WVU's sole turnaround is debatable but the Mountaineers have quality talent and deserve credit for displaying a much better effort in the second half of play. The Flyers did what they needed to do and as a nationally-ranked foe, they stand to get the best effort from the opposition as long as those rankings remain.

Dayton returns to conference play on Saturday when they hosts George Mason at 7pm.

Hot shooting hides a multitude of sins.
Make everyone else's "one day" your "day one".
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