Herd men’s soccer season begins Saturday

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Although the current volatility of collegiate sports schedules could shake things up, the Marshall men’s soccer team will begin its defense of its Conference USA title on Saturday against Ohio Valley University.   

 “We will have to negotiate the rigors of playing in a COVID world,” head coach Chris Grassie said in a statement to HerdZone, “but as long as we can get a decent run at it, we should be able to play some entertaining stuff this year.”  

 The season was supposed to start last week against Virginia Commonwealth University, but COVID-19 issues within the Thundering Herd’s program resulted in a postponement.  

 Thus, the matchup with Ohio Valley will kick off the spring 2021 schedule. The conference portion of the season does not begin until Mar. 6, when Marshall will travel to Columbia, South Carolina, to face the Gamecocks.  

 Grassie said that coming off its first Conference USA title in 2019, Marshall is in title defense mode.  

  “Hunting the title is easier than defending the title,” Grassie said. “But we now have to defend the championship, and that is the next level for this group and our progression as a team.”  

The expectation, not only in the Herd locker room but among the conference’s coaches, is that the Herd will repeat as champions in 2021. The Conference USA Preseason Coaches’ Poll, announced on Wednesday, Jan. 27, tabbed Marshall as the preseason favorites.   

Among the conference announcements, Marshall redshirt sophomore Milo Yosef received Preseason Offensive Player of the Year honors. At the same time, Yosef, senior Pedro Dolabella and junior Jan-Erik Leinhos earned their way onto the Preseason All-Conference team.  

Senior Jamil Roberts, who was drafted on Jan. 21 by Sporting Kansas City, also returns for the Herd. Because his senior season was pushed to the spring after the pandemic caused its postponement, it was unsure if he would be able to play his final year. However, Sporting Kansas City agreed to let him play his final collegiate season before beginning his professional career.    

Another aberration of a soccer season during a pandemic is that there will be no conference tournament after the regular season. The team with the best record will represent the conference in the NCAA tournament. 

 Marshall, of course, represented C-USA in the NCAA tourney last season. After winning in round one against West Virginia University, the Herd lost in round two against the University of Washington in Seattle. That night – Dec. 1, 2019 – was the last time the Marshall men’s soccer team took the field.   

“It’s been about a year since we’ve been able to play competitively,” Grassie said, “so we’re chomping at the bit to finally be able to get going.”  

In the hopes of Marshall fans, players and coaches, the season will begin on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Hoops Family Field.

Grant Goodrich can be contacted at [email protected]