Herd flies high in Hurricane
HURRICANE - Fate might be finally throwing Marshall a bone.
Junior midfielder Zach Hunter and freshman defenseman Nick Edginton scored early goals, then senior keeper Daniel Withrow and the Thundering Herd defense withstood a South Carolina offensive peppering and a controversial call for a 2-1 victory over South Carolina.
An overflowing crowd of nearly 500 attended the Conference USA men's soccer matchup in the first of four Herd games scheduled at Hurricane High School.
Marshall's soccer complex is in the planning stages and the land on which its former home field once sat is now part of the indoor practice building, so the Herd has scattered its home games between Cabell, Kanawha and Putnam counties this season.
South Carolina junior Jason Chapman's goal off freshman Ryan Arambula's corner kick cut the deficit to 2-1 with 13:30 to go in the game, breathing new life into the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks thought they had pulled even with about two minutes to play when a shot went past the Herd's Withrow and danced along the goal line before a Marshall defender cleared the ball from in front of the net.
South Carolina's players on the field thought the ball crossed the goal line, but the referee gave no signal as South Carolina's coaching staff came running down the sideline in protest, but to no avail.
"It was close,'' said Withrow, who finished with five saves. "We're getting results that could go either way. I think there's a little bit of a destiny kind of thing. We're working hard and we've earned it. With the crowd out here it sure felt like a home game.''
Hunter put Marshall on top for good 1-0 with an unassisted tally off a free kick just inside the left post 10 minutes, 41 seconds into the opening half. Edginton volleyed in a corner kick from freshman Andrew Ferguson about halfway through the first 45-minute half for a 2-0 edge.
The Herd (10-1-1 overall, 2-1 C-USA) played without leading scorer Tom Jackson, who twisted a knee during practice earlier this week.
"I think it shows the resiliency of our team,'' said Marshall coach Bob Gary. "We've endured. Even playing at home is like playing away. Some guys stepped up. We played a good South Carolina team.
"They've got the seventh-toughest schedule in the country. They're an SEC school playing with SEC money. It's always tough to beat them. It was a big win for us. You've got to take care of things at home and it's not always easy in this league. Things are bouncing our way right now.''
The Herd was on the defensive the entire second half, getting off only three shots while the Gamecocks (4-7-2, 1-4-1) peppered Withrow with 14 scoring attempts.
"We had all the ball, we had all the chances,'' added South Carolina coach Mark Berson. "We had one we thought was in. We had two penalties that we thought were ignored. You've just got to push on through it.''
Withrow said despite the hardship of not having a field to call home this season, the experience has helped the players forge a bond that has led to success on the field.
"It's not easy,'' said Withrow, a Michigan native with roots in Charleston's South Hills. "We knew it was going to be tough. Being on the road's tough, but if you get results you try not to think about it. I thought it would take a while to adjust, sleeping in hotels every other night.
"We had a weeklong trip two weeks ago, but the guys have really rallied around each other. It helped us become more of a team. You're around your core of 18 guys every weekend. That's all you see and know. They become your best friends. That shows on the field. I'll play for a teammate, but I'll die for a friend.''
The Herd will take on Kentucky at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a C-USA contest at Hurricane High. The other Marshall dates with C-USA foes at Hurricane are Oct. 23 (Florida International, 7 p.m.) and Nov. 3 (Central Florida, 7 p.m.).
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.