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As I watched the amazing story of Marshall winning the NCAA men’s soccer championship, I could not help but flash back to a hilarious story about the program’s humble beginnings.

I remember the first season of 1979, led by Ed Saad, a part-time coach who worked at Ashland Oil.

In that first season, I was watching a home match with former Daily Mail sports writer Mike Cherry. The match was played on a makeshift field on the infield of the Marshall running track.

Marshall was hammered 8-1 by West Virginia Tech. At one point in the game, Saad told at a reserve player to go into the game. In an answer that fit the casual nature of the event, the player responded, “wait just a minute. Wait until I finish my cigarette.”

Cherry and I laughed about that story for years. Yes, the Marshall soccer program has come a long way.

n When I think of the growth of soccer in our area, I often think of Chip Spencer and John Duernberger.

In the spring of 1972, they were student teachers from Morris Harvey College. Spencer was a student teacher at DuPont and Duernberger was at Charleston High. They introduced soccer to their schools and formed club teams.

Near the end of the spring semester the two schools actually played a game, the first contest of its type in the Kanawha Valley. It was not an official SSAC game or sport, it was a “no-cut club sport” similar to high school lacrosse in this region today.

Now look at soccer today. Most high schools have boys and girls teams, and college teams from Charleston and Huntington have won NCAA championships.

I am not sure what happened to Chip Spencer, but Duernberger stayed in the Kanawha Valley and had a long career as a coach and teacher. His son Chad played and coached at the University of Charleston, where his dad is in the Hall of Fame. Chad Duernberger is now an assistant coach at Dartmouth.

One of the players in the DuPont-Charleston soccer game back in 1972 was DuPont football lineman Rob Ryan. His son Alex played college soccer at Concord and is now an up-and-coming soccer official and baseball umpire in the area.

n It will soon be time for the state high school baseball tournament. We may see Jefferson in the tournament again, and if that happens, no doubt you will see stories of Cougars coach John Lowery.

Our state knows his story. He is actually a national story. Consider this: Jefferson County High School has been open for 50 baseball seasons. Lowery is the only baseball coach the school has ever had. That is amazing!

When he started coaching, names such as Lou Romano (Charleston), Frank Scagnelli (Charleston Catholic), Joe Snodgrass (DuPont) and Stan Cadd (South Charleston) were coaching baseball in Kanawha County.

Lowery is still coaching and has over 1,300 wins and 12 state championships. He is a national story that is on display in our state.

Contact Frank Giardina at