TULSA, Okla.- In one of the most thrilling matches of Marshall’s 2011 season, the Thundering Herd and the Southern Methodist University Mustangs men’s soccer teams combined for a whopping seven goals. Unfortunately for the Herd, four of those fell to the Mustangs as SMU won a very close quarterfinal encounter at the C-USA Championships on Wednesday night.
SMU senior Arthur Ivo – who scored in the teams’ 1-1 draw earlier this season – returned to haunt the Herd in the tournament match, scoring a hattrick for the Mustangs as they defeated Marshall 4-3 to advance to Friday’s C-USA semifinal.
The midfielder was on hand from the get-go, sending a shot past goalkeeper Daniel Withrow in just the 13th minute of play for an early 1-0 SMU lead. With midfielder Anthony Virgara – who scored the Herd’s lone goal against SMU in the previous match – being withheld due to injury, Marshall’s goalscoring duties fell to a more-than-capable man. Junior Tom Jackson, who entered the game with a team-leading nine goals on the season, made it to double digits for the year when he put away a rebounding Devin Perkins shot some four minutes later.
With the score knotted at one apiece, both sides continued pressing for the go-ahead goal, but neither found it as the first half drew to a close. When play resumed in the second half, both sides maintained the steady offensive flow, and SMU nearly took the lead when Zach Barnes hit a powerful shot off the crossbar just three minutes in.
Yet it was Marshall who caught the break some seven minutes later, as sophomore Matt Risher’s thumping shot caromed off the far post and into the net for a 2-1 Marshall lead. It was the Charlotte native’s first goal of the season, and came at a pivotal moment in the closely contested match.
Freshman Tyler Engel of SMU didn’t allow the Herd’s one goal advantage to last for long, though, as he outwitted goalkeeper Daniel Withrow and played the ball into an empty net to make things all-square at 2-2.
SMU then pushed forward and scored its third and fourth goals to make it three strikes in a fifteen minute span. Ivo was once again the Herd’s villain, as he slotted home a 69th minute penalty kick and finished off a Robbie Derschang pass to make it 4-2 SMU with just 14 minutes to play.
Three minutes later, though, it was Marshall’s turn to again put the ball in the back of the net, as Risher struck his second goal of the match by punching-in a Tom Jackson shot that was spilled by SMU goalkeeper Jaime Ibarra.
The final 11 minutes were ticking away, though, and with them so were Marshall’s hopes of salvaging a win. The Herd created a few late chances, most notably when Risher headed wide of the goal with five minutes to play, but could not manage to find the tying score. Both Ibarra and WIthrow had four saves apiece in goal, but when the clock struck the 90-minute mark, the only stat that mattered was SMU 4, Marshall 3.
The No. 5 seeded Mustangs had upset the No. 4 seeded Herd, and with the win had drawn Marshall’s 2011 season to a close. The Herd concludes the year with an 8-8-1 record, while SMU improves to 11-6-1 and advances to play against South Carolina in the semifinals of the C-USA Championships.
“We’re a team that plays with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart, and we showed that in the second half,” said Marshall head coach Bob Gray after the match. “We had our opportunities. We went ahead, then we gave up a couple silly goals. Credit them. They have a lot of talent. Credit us, too, we never quit. Right to the end we felt we had a chance to tie it up.”
“Marshall really did a great job against us,” said SMU head coach Tim McClements. “They were very disruptive and they fought hard. When they got the goal, we thought we were playing very well in the first half. We score a nice goal, then we concede. Then we come back out in the second half and give up another goal. Credit to Marshall, they kept battling all the way through. We were very fortunate that we were able to get the equalizer, and then after that we kind of got on a roll. But just like Marshall always does, they battled back and were right in it all the way to the end. It was very difficult for us. You think when you score four goals you’d be able to rest some players, but it was a nail-biter the whole time.”
Marshall will now part ways with seniors Jordan Hilgefort, Carl Munday, and Kyle Sniatecki, and bid farewell to Sam Hood Field as construction on the new soccer facility is set to begin soon.
“I was really proud of our team, not only tonight but throughout this entire season,” continued Coach Gray. “We had kind of a crazy year, starting out slow, but then turning things around and making the tournament. I’m proud of all these guys, and grateful for the work our three seniors have put in during their time here. We are going to miss them, but at the same time I’m excited about the players we have coming back, and we’ll get started next week preparing to make next season a successful one.”