— By David Walsh
Marshall struck for two goals a bit more than 3 minutes apart in the second half and knocked off James Madison, 3-1, in a Sun Belt Conference soccer showdown Saturday night between two Top 10 teams in the country.
The No. 2 Thundering Herd extended its season-best start in program history to 7-0-0. The No. 9 Dukes (4-1-2) incurred their first loss.
A crowd of 1,119 fans witnessed the contest at Sentara Park in Harrisonburg, Va. It was the first matchup between two Top 10 teams at the park since 1994.
Marshall has another Top 10 biggie next Saturday when No. 5 UCF visits Hoops Family Field/Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex in Huntington. The Knights (4-0-2) and No. 4 West Virginia (5-0-1) battled to a 2-2 draw Friday night in Orlando. It was the SBC opener for both teams.
Marshall took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Adam Aoumaich at 20:52. Dukes goalkeeper Sebastian Conlon had made tough saves on shots by Matthew Bell and Marco Silva earlier.
Bell struck at 55:06 with assists to Pablo Simon and Silva for a 2-0 lead. Tamiu Okiyoshi then banged a shot home with the right foot at 58:12 for the 3-0 cushion.
James Madison avoided the shutout when Rodrigo Robles beat Herd keeper Gabriel Perrotta to the bottom left at 70:48. Helpers went to Enrique Garcia Barelles and Evan Southern. The goal is just the third the Herd has allowed this season. Perrotta had just stopped a shot by Robles 42 seconds earlier.
Both teams took 11 shots. The Herd had seven on goal to five for the Dukes. Both keepers made four saves.
Perrotta is no stranger to James Madison. Perrotta, a transfer from UNCA, played against the Dukes four times when he was with the Seawolves. The two schools competed in the Colonial Athletic Association at the time. Perrotta is 3-2 all-time against the Dukes.
Marshall was the highest-ranked team to play at Sentara Park since 2021 when the Herd came in ranked No. 1.
In its last 12 matches overall, the Herd is 10-2-1. Marshall’s goal differential now is 22 (25-3). The Herd evened the all-time series with the Dukes at 4-4.