HUNTINGTON — When Marshall’s men’s soccer team left for the NCAA tournament three weeks ago, only those surrounding the program thought the team would emerge as the last team standing.
On Tuesday, the Thundering Herd returned to Huntington as national champions after Monday night’s 1-0 overtime win over Indiana at Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, North Carolina.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams was on hand to congratulate the team as it arrived back home to Hoops Family Field on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m so proud of the way they performed,” Williams said. “It’s pretty incredible stuff. When someone says, ‘Who would’ve dreamed it,’ how many ever coaches and how many ever members of the team are there, they all dreamed it. It wasn’t a surprise to them and that’s a lesson for the rest of the city and the rest of the state to hold on to.”
The 6-hour drive back from Cary to Huntington was the last part of the Herd’s journey for the 2020-21 season, and it was a sweet one for those in Green and White.
“The perfect way to finish my college…career, with the best team in the Nation,” tweeted Marshall’s Jamil Roberts, who scored the title-clinching goal in the 98th minute on Monday night. “I said we had a team that was capable, but wow did we do it in style. I love this team, I love this city, I love this school, this is for you.”
Just as 5,000 Marshall fans crowded their way into Sahlen’s Stadium to cheer on the Herd to its title, another large contingent filled Hoops Family Field for Marshall’s return on Tuesday evening. Some even lined streets in Huntington to get a look at the impressive convoy ushering the team into town.
The Herd arrived with a hero’s welcome, as a convoy of law enforcement officials escorted the team throughout the state and back into Huntington where the team arrived just after 7 p.m. to continue the celebration.
That celebration began at Sahlen’s Stadium just after 11:30 p.m. on Monday night when a shot by Vitor Dias bounded off Indiana goalkeeper Roman Celentano, off the post and onto the waiting foot of Roberts, who stuffed it into the net before Celentano could recover.
As Roberts slid to the turf at Sahlen’s Stadium, he was greeted by an on-rush of Marshall fans who stormed the field to celebrate Marshall’s first-ever NCAA College Cup title.
That celebration lasted throughout the night in North Carolina and continued into Tuesday’s journey home, where Marshall’s players and coaches finally got to acknowledge something they felt all season long — that they were the best team in the nation.
The Herd proved it in style, too. After defeating Fordham in the opening round, Marshall knocked off No. 1 seed Clemson, defending champion Georgetown, a home-standing North Carolina side and, finally, an Indiana team that was ranked No. 3 nationally and had eight College Cup titles and 16 College Cup finals appearances to its credit.
Marshall boasts of its title until next season, which reverts back to a fall schedule for 2021-22. The Herd will reconvene in July to begin training for the 2021 season, where it will look to defend its status as the best in the nation.