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Second Half Slump Dooms Marshall

Published: October 15, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C.- The Thundering Herd men’s soccer team went up 1-0 over the University of South Carolina at Stone Field on Saturday night, but then surrendered three goals – two in the second half – to the Gamecocks as South Carolina came from behind to overtake Marshall at the top of the Conference USA table with a 3-1 win.

The Herd entered the game atop the league with an undefeated C-USA record at 3-0-1, but fell victim to a second place South Carolina team that was hungry to move into first with a conference win.

The Gamecock’s leading scorer on the season, Bradlee Baladez, was also hungry on the night, scoring the final goal of the match after providing the assists for his team’s first two scores. Marshall’s leading scorer and top offensive threat, Tom Jackson, still had his say, though, scoring the first goal of the match off a free kick some 27 minutes in.

The Herd defense, however, allowed Kevin Stam to head-in a Baladez corner-kick just three minutes later to knot the game up at one goal apiece. The teams took that scoreline into the break, but upon their returns to the pitch, the match took another fateful twist for the Herd when a Baladez cross found Braeden Troyer for the go-ahead goal just fifteen minutes into the second half.

Then, two minutes later, the Gamecocks were at it again, this time with Baladez putting away a near-post shot following a cross from teammate Vance Benson. It was hard-luck for a Herd defense that came into the game having allowed no more than a goal in previous contests against C-USA competition, and for a team that had allowed no more than two goals to be scored against it in any match this season.

Indeed, South Carolina most likely put an end to Marshall’s conference-leading goals against average, but as far as the shot count was concerned, the teams were pretty even at 14 to Marshall and 16 to South Carolina. Nevertheless, it was the Gamecocks who converted when it mattered most, and the Gamecocks who moved ahead of Marshall on the 2011 regular season chart. The Herd are now 3-1-1 in the conference and 7-5-1 overall, while South Carolina is 4-1-0 and 6-5-1.

“I thought statistically we were pretty even,” said Head Coach Bob Gray. “We had a really good first half and scored the first goal, but then let in the tying goal off of a corner kick just a few minutes later. Then they barnstormed us in the second half and we could never respond despite several chances late-on. It’s always tough to steal a win on the road in this conference, and having already gotten two Conference USA wins [against FIU and Kentucky] on the road earlier in the season, South Carolina wanted it more and kept us from getting this one. It will definitely be nice to be at home for two of our last three regular season matches.”

Those home matches will take place beginning next Saturday, the 22nd of October, when the UAB Blazers arrive at Sam Hood Field for a 7:00 p.m. match. The Herd will then wait a week before hosting Tulsa at 7:00 p.m. on October 29, and will finish-out the regular season on the road to UCF on November 5, also at 7:00 p.m. All three matches are against C-USA opposition.

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