HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The best season in Marshall University men’s soccer program history continues Sunday evening over 2,500 miles away from home.
The No.11 ranked Herd (16-2-3) take on No. 6 Washington Huskies (16-3-0) in Seattle for a spot in the NCAA national quarterfinal. The match begins at 8 p.m. eastern time and is being streamed through the Pac-12.
Marshall President Dr. Jerome Gilbert told MetroNews that sports runs of this nature give the entire university and community a boost, which is something he is excited about.
“We are always talking about being successful and excellent at what you do. This is an example of someone excelling at the highest level. We couldn’t be more thrilled,” Gilbert said.
“We wish we were playing again in Huntington instead of out in Washington but it’s going to be a great run for our team and we’d love to see them go to the Final Four.”
Marshall advanced to the “Sweet 16” with a win in Huntington over WVU, 2-1 last Sunday in front of a record crowd of 2,126 fans at Hoops Family Field/Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex.
Goals from Milo Josef and Jamil Roberts made the difference for the Herd while goalie Paulo Pita got the win in net. Pita appeared on a recent episode of MetroNews ‘Talkline’ and said this type of run doesn’t surprise him with all the work that has been put in.
“We were proving ourselves day by day,” Pita said. “For the talent we have, every single player, I just look around at my teammates and the staff and see how professional this environment is. This is what we deserve.”
The team will once again be without head coach Chris Grassie and normal starting midfielder Pedro Dolabella, who were both unavailable for the WVU game. The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules Committee announced this week that Grassie is suspended the next eight games for an administrative error on card accumulation.
Dolabella, a junior who is third on the team with 18 points (7 goals, 4 assists) is suspended the next four games in relation to the same issue.
Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick called the actions an honest mistake, saying “there was no ill intent here and no attempt to gain a competitive advantage.” Dolabella was supposed to sit out the first game of the 2019 season for being issued a red and yellow card in the 2018 season finale.
Grassie was named C-USA Coach of the Year earlier this month after his team claimed both the regular season and tournament championships.
Pita said this run started with their head coach, who came to Marshall a few years ago from the University of Charleston.
“He got new players that made a huge difference, that was the main key for it,” Pita said. “He got Josh (Faga), who has been big for us. Coach put it together, every piece of the puzzle.”
Josh Faga is an assistant coach along with Petsa Ivanovic and Brian Grassie. Kerri Francis is the assistant athletic trainer for the team while Sam Black is the assistant strength & conditioning coach and J.T. Mellendick does academic counseling.
And while the team will be playing across the country on Sunday night and not in Cabell County, Gilbert said the community has been captivated by this team’s talent and will be tuned in.
“Just the sheer skill that those individuals have with their feet and how they move,” he said. “I was amazed by their perfect balance and how they were able to move the ball around.
“It is just beautiful out there.”