Men’s soccer outlasts Owls

The Marshall University Thundering Herd men’s soccer team grinded out a victory against the Florida Atlantic University Owls Sunday. This improves the overall record to 5-4-0 and registers as the first win in conference play, making the record 1-1-0.

“Call it lucky, but I like to think that we just grinded that game out,” Marshall head coach Bob Gray said after the game. “We needed the three points at home here, and that should kick start us going into a tough October schedule.”

Continuing the trend from Wednesday night, Gray shuffled around the starting lineup and positions again. Senior Daniel Jodah started the game and was able to press Florida Atlantic, which started slow. Tommy Trupo was played in a midfield role, but was played forward into the Thundering Herd offensive attack. John Pappas and Chris Taibi joined in multiple attacks early on from their left and right back positions.

While the opportunities were available in the first half to score, none beat the FAU defense.

The best opportunity may have been when Alex Reyes and Rudy Erwin combined some offensive passes, with Reyes drawing a foul about 25 yards from goal. The ensuing spot kick was crossed into the box where Taibi connected with it, but the save was made by FAU goalkeeper Phillip Hitpass.

The Owls’ best opportunities came from stopping Thundering Herd possessions and quickly counter-attacking. While not controlling a lot of possession, FAU displayed great team speed, and was quick to pounce on errant passes, forcing the Thundering Herd to retreat in defense.

While the attacks were sporadic, the Owls did not register a shot, or corner kicks, thanks in part to the solid back line play of the Thundering Herd defense and goalkeeper Trevor Clemens.

The second half saw the Owls’ offense and possession spring to life. Florida Atlantic controlled much more possession and was able to earn seven corner kicks and register five shots, with three on goal.

They were kept at bay by Thundering Herd goalkeeper Trevor Clemens, along with solid support from the Thundering Herd back line and retreating midfielders. Clemens recorded three saves, and maintained a clean sheet, his second this week with the shut-out of Northern Kentucky University.

The Thundering Herd offense also showed threats throughout the second half, with a few great opportunities to score, but FAU goalkeeper Hitpass continued to show excellent form through the second half.

The eventual game winning goal, scored by Trevor Starcher, was a combination of great positioning, athleticism, and reaction. Brian Lopez-Mendez rocked a shot at goal, but Hitpass made a great diving effort to deflect it, registering the initial save. The ball bounced right to Starcher, who promptly redirected the ball on net. Hitpass was out of position from the previous attempt and watched it ripple the mesh, breaking the scoreless game, giving Marshall the advantage with three minutes left in the contest.

A jubilant Starcher remarked after the game that the team jokes that he is only allowed to score off rebounded shots. While this is a trend Starcher hopes to improve, it has paid dividends for the Thundering Herd as this week he pocketed the game-winning goal and assisted on the game-winning goal Wednesday night against Northern Kentucky University.

Marshall University men’s soccer will play next at Evansville University Purple Aces in Evansville, Indiana. The next Thundering Herd home game is scheduled Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. against the Flames of Liberty University.

Joseph Ashley can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @Joseph_AshleyMU.