CINCINNATI - Redshirted freshman Will Walker scored a first half goal and the Xavier men's soccer battled through 90 minutes of play against a physical Marshall team to capture a 1-0 victory in the season opener.
Thursday's win marks the first time since 2007 that the Musketeers have opened a season with a victory. The loss drops the Thundering Herd to 0-2-0 on the season.
"I'm certainly happy with our result, but I think the path could have been better," head coach Andy Fleming said. "Marshall made it a little hectic and presented us with a different look than what we had seen in our three preseason games. We knew that coming in, but sometimes that doesn't matter."
Xavier's goal came in the 10th minute of play, and was the first-career goal for the Batavia, Ohio native who missed last season after transferring to Xavier.
Sophomore midfielder Tanner Petrick corralled a loose ball and volleyed it past midfield for Junior forward Luke Spencer, who used his size and a large hop to play towards goal. Walker caught up to the pass and muscled his way past two Thundering Herd defenders to put the 12-yard scoring shot on net.
The goal would be one of many scoring chances for the Musketeers. Sophomore Gino Depaoli struck a shot that went wide in the 17th minute and Spencer had a sliding attempt in the 52nd minute that missed net.
Xavier had a chance to take a two-goal advantage in the 58th minute when back-to-back shots by Spencer and sophomore midfielder Matt Walker were saved by Marshall goalkeeper Daniel Withrow. Spencer had another chance late in the game, but his point-blank shot was blocked before reaching net. Despite the opportunities, Fleming said the midfield needs to be more active in its play.
"I thought we could have played with more confidence on the ball tonight. We had trouble linking passes together, but I think that has to do with a couple of the guys coming out early with injuries," Fleming said. "We've shown confidence, and played great soccer against top programs and I thought tonight we were a little bit of passive. We certainly played the way Marshall wanted us to, as opposed to playing the way that we want to."
Junior goalkeeper Justin Marshall had a solid 90-minute effort, making six saves including two crucial saves at the beginning of the second half. He picked up the win, while Withrow made three saves but suffered his second loss of the year.
The Musketeers rallied in the second half to close the total shots gap to 17-13, in favor of Marshall. Xavier won the corner kick battle, 6-2.
Twenty-eight fouls were issued in the game and cautions were issued to Marshall's Deshawn Forbes in the 64th minute and Kyle Sniatecki in the 75th. Marshall led the foul category, 16-12.
Spencer led all players with five shots, while Matt Walker led each club with two shots on goal. Eddy Prugh was the Thundering Herd's leading shot take with two.
Up next for Xavier will be a trip to Nashville to take on Lipscomb beginning at 3 p.m. on Sunday. The Musketeers defeated the Bisons 1-0 at home last season.