High School Football

One more hurdle for Marshall: Thundering Herd seek first national championship against Indiana

Marshall’s men’s soccer team has enjoyed a historic season that has the program one win away from its first national championship.

All that stands in the way of the Thundering Herd and a coveted title is one of the sport’s most storied programs in Indiana, which will face Marshall at 8 p.m. Monday in the NCAA College Cup National Championship.

The contest, being held at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Complex, will be shown on ESPN2.

“We don’t have to have the best game of our lives to win the national championship,” Marshall coach Chris Grassie said. “We just have to play well and do what we normally do. That’ll be the message and that’s been the message throughout. We’ll continue to reiterate that.”

The 10th-ranked Herd (12-2-3) have gotten by Fordham, Clemson, Georgetown and most recently North Carolina in Friday’s national semifinal during NCAA Tournament play.

Marshall has allowed two goals in those four matches, while shutting out the Hoyas and Tar Heels.

Limiting the opposition’s offense has been a key to Marshall’s success, with the Herd having allowed only eight goals all season.

In 10 of Marshall’s victories, the Herd hasn’t surrendered a goal to its opponent.

Junior goalkeeper Oliver Semmle has nine clean sheets and a 0.40 goals-against average over 17 games and 16 starts.

“He’s clearly the best goalkeeper in the country,” Grassie said following Marshall’s 1-0 win over UNC in which Semmle had a season-high five saves. “Is there any goalkeeper who can play with their feet like he does? He just adds to our team and I think we have a lot of guys who are the best in the country at their position.

“I think as a team, we’re the best team in the country. He just fits perfectly along with that. It’s more important to win championships than personal awards and I think every single member of the team is totally on board with that.”

Marshall goalkeeper Oliver Semmle (1) makes a stop at the goal against North Carolina. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Junior Vitor Dias leads Marshall’s offensive attack with six goals and five assists, while Jamil Roberts is one of three Marshall players with four goals. Roberts has come through in a big way for the Herd of late, scoring the lone goal in the matches against Georgetown and UNC.

Third-ranked Indiana (12-1-2) is seeking its ninth national championship. The Hoosiers most recently won a title in 2012, though they played for one in 2017 while finishing runner-up for a seventh time.

Like Marshall in its win over Clemson, the Hoosiers advanced past St. Francis Brooklyn on the strength of penalty kicks in their NCAA Tournament opener. Since, Indiana has posted victories over Marquette, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh, while allowing one goal in the three matches.

IU sophomore keeper Roman Celentano has nine shutouts, a 0.32 GAA and 52 saves.

Victor Bezerra leads the Hoosiers with 12 goals and four assists for 28 points. The 28 points are 16 more than the next closest IU player — Ryan Wittenbrink, who’s second on the team with five goals.

Herbert Endeley has scored four times, including the lone goal in the triumph over the Panthers.

While a tough challenge awaits the Herd, Grassie expects a strong contingent of Marshall fans on hand for the finale in Cary, N.C. He was impressed with the support his team received Friday against UNC, whose Chapel Hill campus is only a half hour from the venue.

“Herd Nation traveled and we made this place our own,” Grassie said. “We’ll make it our own again on Monday. It felt like a home field for us and we performed like the team with the history and they didn’t. I can’t thank the Herd Nation enough for making Cary a home venue for us.”

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