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NCAA May 15, 2021

Marshall defeats North Carolina 1-0 to reach NCAA Men’s College Cup Final

CARY, N.C. – The NCAA Tournament journey of the 10th-ranked Marshall men’s soccer team rolls on to the National Championship of the College Cup for the first time in program history, as the Herd defeated No. 16 North Carolina 1-0 on Friday. Senior Jamil Roberts scored the game-winner in the 60th minute.

The Herd will face the 3rd-ranked Indiana Hoosiers, Monday night at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Marshall improves to 12-2-3 for the year and becomes the first member team in Conference USA history to play for a men’s National Championship. Charlotte was the National Championship runner-up to North Carolina in 2011, but the 49ers were members of the Atlantic-10 at the time.

The Thundering Herd is also just the fourth unseeded team since the 16-team seed era (2003-present) to make the final. Marshall is ranked No. 10, however only eight teams were seeded this season with the reduced field due to the pandemic.

“It was a great performance,” Herd head coach Chris Grassie said. “I thought we possessed the ball very well. We could have had a little bit more penetration, but I thought they defended really well. They seemed to have that extra bit of energy, UNC did, being in the Final Four before. (UNC) had a lot of sort-of half-chances around the box, but we knew that we would break them entirely at one point because they had been running, and running and running. And it happened once with Jamil (Roberts) getting in with the shot, but there were three or four more occasions where we were a pass away from having a clear shot at the goal.

“We still have a couple of levels to go which is great to see, something to work on over the next couple of days before the final. Which is the scary thing about this team, I don’t think we have played our best football yet. So hopefully we are saving it for the big occasion.”

Marshall was outshot 11-1 in the contest, but the Herd made the one count. Five of the Tar Heel’s shots were on goal and junior goalkeeper Oliver Semmle was there every time to make the save as the five stops were a season-high. Semmle recorded four saves in the first half as North Carolina had been applying a fair amount of pressure when it got the chance.

“I think we struggled a little bit in the buildup in the first half,” Semmle said. “They got some chances from our mistakes. At halftime we talked about it and we fixed it. We knew that they were going to press high, with two strikers. We were aware of it so it was no surprise for us. I think in the second half we handled the pressure better.

“We trust each other, so there is no reason to panic. We know how good we are and how good everyone else on the team is. So if I pass the ball to anyone, I know that they won’t lose the ball. It is all about trusting your teammates and that is why we are confident and we don’t hesitate under pressure.”

Semmle made one last save in the first half in the 42nd minute as the teams went in at the break scoreless.

In the second half, Marshall still maintained possession much of the time in attempting to keep the ball away from UNC and trying to find that break-away chance. Finally, in the 60th minute, redshirt sophomore Milo Yosef had the ball on the far side just entering the 18-yard box. Yosef made a pass to his left that junior Vitor Dias made one quick touch to keep it away from a defender, and then the ball found Roberts charging in from the left. Roberts kept the ball low and sent it right between the legs of the keeper for the goal.

“Going to be honest I needed the flick (from Vitor Dias),” Roberts said about the goal. “Milo (Yosef) drove down the right-hand side and he looked up and he saw me. I think it was just a miscued pass, but Vitor has been doing it all season with a bit of magic in the box. He flicks it around the corner to me and it was up to me finish it and happily I did.

“We have started to get into a groove since midway through the season. We’ve got the best defense in the country, the best goalkeeper in the country, and that is why we never panic in those late game situations.”

Roberts scored his second goal of the NCAA postseason, as he also hit the game-winner in the second half against Georgetown. It was  his fourth of the season and 18th of his career putting him into a three-way tie for sixth all-time at Marshall. The goal gave Roberts a career total of 56 points, moving him ahead of Ryan LaPointe (1989-93) into sixth place all-time in team history. Roberts also sits in second place all-time with 20 assists.

Yosef and Dias received the double assist. Dias now leads the team in helpers with six, just passing Roberts. Yosef notched his fourth assist of the year.

North Carolina attempted to turn up the pressure over the final 30 minutes. However, Marshall’s defense was up to the task. UNC fired off five shots in a 15-minute span that either missed wide, hit the crossbar, or were deflected by Herd defenders. Semmle only needed to make one save in the second half coming in the 81st minute, that was also the final shot of the game for the Tar Heels. Semmle recorded his 10th clean sheet of the season to set a Marshall single-season program record. He surpassed Daniel Withrow (2009-12) who had 9.5 in 2012.

The Herd did not need to wait long to find out its opponent for the championship match. No. 3 Indiana defeated No.2 Pittsburgh 1-0 as Herbert Endeley scored the game-winner in the 79th minute.

Coach Grassie remains confident and unwavering about his team.

“It will probably be the same themes of what we talked about all along,” coach Grassie said when asked about what he will talk to the team about on Monday night. “We talk about being brave on the ball. We talk about being together as a team and the brotherhood and the family atmosphere that we’ve got. And then talked about working really hard and then not panicking and playing our game.

“We don’t have to play the best game of our lives to win the National Championship. We just have to play well.”