Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

HUNTINGTON, WV - The Thundering Herd men’s soccer team faced No. 24 ranked UAB at Sam Hood Field on Saturday night, but came out on the wrong side of a 3-2 scoreline as the teams combined for three goals in a frenzied, final five minutes.

The evening game began under the setting sun, and as the brisk, fall temperatures fell, the action began to heat up in a game with plenty of Conference USA implications. The Herd was 3-1-1 in C-USA coming into the match, while the Blazers of UAB were 3-1-0 and one point behind the hosts in the league standings, yet it was UAB who struck first, scoring in the 30th minute via Babaye Sodade’s team-leading 10th goal of the season. The senior forward outmuscled the Herd defense on a Chase Wickham corner-kick before driving home a powerful header that eluded the reach of goalkeeper Daniel Withrow.

Marshall would respond, though, much as it did in its last conference home-game against SMU, by scoring right after the halftime break. A Michael Hayes’ corner-kick found its way to Anthony Virgara, whose overhead kick fell kindly for Travis Brent to head home from point-blank range. It was the sophomore defender’s first goal of the season, and shifted all the momentum Marshall’s way with the score leveled at 1-1.

After a flurry of Marshall chances – the Herd outshot the Blazers 18-7 on the night – it was UAB, though, who took control with the game’s next goal. Immediately after Eddy Prugh had his shot cleared off the line, the Blazers’ Sodade countered and set Wickham free down the right-hand side. The sophomore midfielder then made no mistake in slotting the ball beneath Withrow for the go-ahead goal. Then, just two minutes later, Sodade was involved again, breaking free down the left-hand side towards a one-on-one with Withrow. The Marshall keeper got a hand on Sodade’s powerful shot, but the ball still dropped into the net to double UAB’s advantage with three minutes to play.

Senior defender Jordan Hilgefort grabbed a consolation goal not even a minute later, but by then Marshall’s chances to force anything but overtime had passed. And while the Herd still controls its own postseason destiny sitting at 5th place in the conference with two games to play, it may have lost out on the chance to finish in the top-two and clinch a first round bye in the tournament.

“UAB is ranked number 24 in the country for a reason, but we should have had them tonight,” said Head Coach Bob Gray. “This is a game of inches, and the ball bounced their way this time, and it’s unfortunate because I felt like this was our game for the taking but it didn’t turn out that way. Now we have a big game against Tulsa next weekend, and with the way this conference is going, anything can happen.”

Indeed, the Herd will now face Tulsa on Saturday, October 29, at 7:00 p.m. in what will be its final regular season home game of the 2011 season. The match will also be senior night for Marshall seniors Jordan Hilgefort, Kyle Sniatecki, and Carl Munday, and may allow the Herd to clinch a postseason berth with a win. The team will then wrap-up its regular season on the road to UCF on November 5.