Marshall takes down Indiana in thrilling NCAA Men’s College Cup Final
CARY, N.C. – It was a magical night at WakeMed Soccer Park as the 10th-ranked Marshall men’s soccer team etched its name into the NCAA College Cup history books on Monday, defeating the 3rd-ranked Indiana Hoosiers 1-0 for the National Championship. Senior Jamil Roberts hit his third game-winner of the NCAA Tournament scoring the golden goal in the 98th minute.
The Thundering Herd caps its historical season with a record of 13-2-3. Marshall rolled through some stiff competition on its way to winning its first-ever National Championship. The Herd began with a 2-1, overtime victory against No. 23 Fordham in the second round as redshirt sophomore Milo Yosef scored both goals.
Then Marshall took down the No. 1 seed Clemson Tigers, advancing 7-6 in the penalty kick shootout. The Herd advanced to the Elite 8 where it defeated the defending National Champions No. 8 Georgetown as Roberts scored his first game-winner of the postseason in the 70th minute off a pass from junior Vitor Dias. Marshall moved on to the College Cup and the Final Four for the first time in team history, and the Herd kept rolling on with a 1-0 win over No. 16 North Carolina as Roberts again scored the game-winner in the 60th minute, with another assist from Dias.
In four short seasons, head coach Chris Grassie took a Marshall program that missed the 2016 Conference USA Tournament to a National Champion.
“Immensely, immensely proud to be a part of this team,” coach Grassie said. “We all really kind of came together this season and we just got better and better and better. We had some bumps in the road. There are definitely a couple of teams tonight that will be happy they beat a national champion. But, we continued to learn from each lesson and each set back.
“It was the way it felt. It just felt amazing to be around this group. Everyone felt dialed in. Just couldn’t get enough of hanging out, enough of watching scouts and film and working with the guys. It was just one of those things where everyone was feeding off it more and more. And just being able to hang out socially for these last couple weeks has been fantastic.
“Big congratulations to Indiana. I thought they played really well. They caused us problems on the counterattack especially in the first half. We had to deal with that, but then we just kept doing our thing, playing our style, keeping the ball, knocking it around. We got more and more chances and it just felt like there was only going to be one to win it. Glad to get (the winner) when we did. When it went in, it just felt surreal.”
The delayed start time did not affect Marshall, as earlier on the pitch No. 11 Santa Clara defeated No. 1 seed Florida State in a penalty kick shootout to capture the women’s National Title. It was Santa Clara’s second National Championship in program history and its first since 2001. Kickoff was set back from 8 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., however the Herd came out firing from the first whistle.
Marshall maintained possession for the majority of the first half and outshot Indiana 8-6. The Herd notched four shots on goal that were all stopped by the Hoosiers’ keeper Roman Celentano. Indiana had a few chances that were near misses, with two hitting off the post and a wide-open header off a corner kick that went wide left.
Yosef had the first shot on goal in the 18th minute as he fired one from about 20 yards out. Junior Vinicius Fernandes had a great chance in the 23rd minute that Celentano just knocked away, diving low to the near side. Dias squared up a shot from about 19 yards out in the 25th minute, catching it off a deflection from a corner kick that was nearly cleared out. Dias had a second shot on goal in the 37th minute.
The teams went in at the half all knotted up at 0-0.
The Herd continued to push the ball in the second half, after withstanding a quick rush from Indiana. Marshall was called for a foul in the 49th minute just outside of the 18-yard box to give the Hoosiers a free kick from 19 yards away. Off the set piece, Indiana fired in a low shot that was stopped by junior goalkeeper Oliver Semmle and an attempt at a rebound shot was called off due to an offside call against the Hoosiers.
Dias had his third shot on goal saved in the 56th minute as he tried to beat the keeper low to the far corner; however, Celentano was able to get his gloves on the shot. In the 65th minute, Fernandes sent in a high shot that almost slipped through Celentano’s hands, but Indiana’s keeper was able to grab the loose ball.
The two teams that were tied for the lead in the NCAA with 10 shutouts each, kept it scoreless after 90 minutes as the Herd and the Hoosiers headed to overtime.
Indiana put on the pressure at the beginning of the first overtime period. The Herd defense stood tall and despite the fact that the Hoosiers had the ball near the box, Marshall did not allow a shot. Finally, the Herd had a breakaway chance.
Yosef dribbled from the near side to the midfield and centered a pass to Dias at the top of the box. Dias attempted one shot that was blocked by an Indiana defender, but then Dias grabbed the quick rebound to take another shot from about 10 yards out. Celentano made the stop, but the ball was loose on the far side. Roberts knocked in the final touch with his left foot after a slight deflection off the post, and before Celentano made a last diving attempt.
“Déjà vu,” Roberts said when asked about the goal. “Vitor in the box does something that no other player of the pitch can do. The keeper makes a decent save and I’m there to tap it in. Luckily I’m in the right place at the right time. That’s what we train and I make that run 20 or 30 times in the game but it only takes that one time for the ball to drop. And as coach always says, we love tap ins.
“It was the best way to finish this incredible season.”
The celebration ensued as Roberts and his teammates went sliding into the far corner and were very shortly joined by many of the fans in attendance. Roberts was named the College Cup’s Offensive Most Outstanding Player.
“Generating that crowd and having them be such a big part of this has just given us that extra boost, that extra energy,” coach Grassie said when asked about the Herd faithful fans in attendance. “This was amazing tonight. I think we would have bought every ticket. If we had twice as many tickets, we would have bought every ticket.
“They were out there tailgating and cheering us on. The pressure got bigger for us but the support was twice as big as the pressure. They really made it possible for us. And what an environment they created for our guys to play soccer in. Absolutely hats off to them. I love every one of them. I think I got a backbreaking hug from at least fifty-percent of them today. But just immensely proud to be a part of this group.”
The Herd outshot Indiana 17-8, and 8-1 on goal. Roberts scored his fifth goal of the season and 19th of his career. He caps off his outstanding time with the Green & White second all-time in career assists (20), sixth in career goals and sixth in career points (58).
Semmle increased his program single-season record with his 11th shutout of the season, which also leads the NCAA. The junior goalkeeper also established new Herd and Conference USA records for the lowest goals against average with a 0.38. He bested the old Marshall mark of 0.52 set by Daniel Winthrow in 2012 and the league record of 0.49 set by Kentucky’s Enrique Facusse in 2018.
Dias finished the year as Marshall’s leader in goals (6), assists (7) and points (19).
Marshall became the first Conference USA member team to win a National Championship. Several schools have won national titles in many sports while members of other conferences. The Herd won two football Division I-AA titles in 1992 and 1996. The Marshall men’s basketball team won an NAIB National Tournament in 1947 and the women’s basketball team won five MAIAW tournaments in the 1970s.
NCAA All-Tournament Team
Filip Mirkovic, Pittsburgh, M
Jasper Loeffelsend, Pittsburgh, D
Joey Maher, Indiana, D
Herbert Endeley, Indiana, F
Joe Pickering, North Carolina, D
Nathan Dossantos, Marshall, D
Vinicius Fernandes, Marshall, F
Max Schneider, Marshall, M
Vitor Dias, Marshall, M
Offensive Most Outstanding Player: Jamil Roberts, Marshall, F
Defensive Most Outstanding Player: Roman Celentano, Indiana, GK