His family ties are a keeper
HUNTINGTON - When Marshall's soccer team begins its regular season Friday at the Trace Fork Soccer Complex, goalkeeper Daniel Withrow will feel right at home.
He hails from Rochester Hills, Mich., but will have plenty of family to watch him take on Wright State at 7 p.m. Some of those family members could almost walk to Trace Fork.
He lived in Cross Lanes until business took his father, Charles Withrow, to Detroit's northern suburbs. Charles Withrow is one of several family members who graduated from George Washington High; grandparents Curtis and Lucy Withrow, along with Robert Withrow, all live in Charleston. Sister Kristin Withrow Klosterman is an obstetrics and gynecology physician in Michigan, and they have family ties in Lewisburg.
Such local ties are no small reason why he came to play for the Thundering Herd.
"Knowing there is family here definitely helps," he said this week. "Anytime you leave the state and don't know anybody, you want to have some sort of rock behind you. It helped that I had family in Charleston, so much family in the area. My sister was enrolled in medical school my first year here, so she lived right by Ritter Park."
Withrow isn't just interested in a good homecoming this week. He's looking to begin the last season of an already distinguished career and enhance his stock in the professional ranks.
He is the Conference USA preseason defender of the year, two seasons after winning the real postseason honor as a sophomore. Playing every minute in net in 2010, Withrow led the Herd to a 5-2 league mark and a berth in the C-USA championship game, a loss to 12th-ranked Tulsa.
C-USA is particularly strong in men's soccer, sending four teams to the NCAA tournament each of the last two years.
"I think we were picked last. We usually are picked at the bottom. Nobody gives us a whole lot of respect," said Herd coach Bob Gray. "We got on a roll and Dan got on a roll, and we beat some big-time teams going into the championship game, and he was a huge part of that."
Last season, Withrow was a first-team All-Conference USA selection, leading the conference with almost five saves per game in the Herd's 8-8-1 season. MU was 4-3-1 in the league, again making the six-team C-USA tournament.
Withrow, an economics major, likes the team he'll have in front of him.
"A lot of people have experience now," he said. "Guys have settled into their positions, we have two veterans center backs. We've got some freshmen who can come in to play."
Withrow says he's only as good as the 10 men in front of him, but Gray has a slightly different view. Gray is entering his 17th year as the Herd's coach, and already was a veteran coach when he arrived in Huntington. He's seen a few netminders.
"His honors speak for himself, and I rate him right up there with some of the best keepers I've had - not just here, but the 35 years I've coached soccer," Gray said. "Daniel has all the tools to play at the next level. He's very quick, his height's a huge advantage - he may be 6-2 but he plays a lot bigger than that. He dominates in the air."
Playing on the D.C. United under-23 team this summer, Withrow hopes to earn a spot at the Major League Soccer combine and be selected in the MLS Superdraft. His "Plan B" would be going to graduate school and perhaps serving as a graduate assistant at MU, but that's down the road.
"There's definitely a place for him to play," Gray said. "Obviously, we're reaching for the stars."
Marshall will play its four conference home games at Hurricane High. The men's and women's teams are in transition from their cozy Sam Hood Field to a new soccer complex at the site of the now-leveled Memorial Field House. The land where Sam Hood Field sits will soon be taken as part of the long-awaited indoor practice complex.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.