Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

HUNTINGTON, WV - The ladies of the Thundering Herd soccer team gathered at Sam Hood Field on Sunday afternoon for the final regular season home game of 2011. Celebrating senior day, it was Marshall’s senior forward Angela DeSumma who appropriately scored the game-winning goal in the Herd’s crucial, 1-0 win over the Rice University Owls.

After suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of Houston on Friday night, the Herd knew it had to turn things around to keep its slim hopes of advancing to the C-USA postseason tournament alive. Add to the occasion the fact that it was senior day for Marshall seniors Angela DeSumma, Freya Holdaway, Katie Ball, and Megan Tabler, and the desperation for the win only seemed to intensify.

Yet Marshall did not wilt under the pressure and emotion, as it capped-off sustained first half pressure with a 39th minute DeSumma goal. Junior Sarah Vinson endured a crunching tackle to play in DeSumma, who finished with a far-post blast that left Rice goalkeeper Amy Czyz with no chance.

At the break Marshall led 13-3 in shots, but had just one goal to show for its efforts. As the second half began, Rice ramped up the pressure, but the Herd defense and goalkeeper Lindsey Kerns – who returned after last game’s suspension – posted five saves and kept the Owl offense from creating any real chances.

When the final whistle blew, Marshall’s seniors and the rest of the team rejoiced in the Herd’s first win since defeating Southern Miss on October 9, and in the fact that the four seniors departed Sam Hood Field with a victory in their final match. Marshall had defeated Rice, a team four places ahead of it in the league standings, by a 1-0 score, and kept its slim hopes of a postseason berth alive.

The Herd, now 4-11-3 on the year and 2-6-2 in the conference, will play its final game of the season on the road to East Carolina this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Even with a win, the Herd will still need help to make the eight team tournament, but regardless, the team and seniors will hope to put up a stern challenge to an East Carolina team that has defeated both Rice and Houston in its last two games.

“Over the last four years we’ve done a lot of great things in the program,” said Head Coach Kevin Long. “These were phenomenal seniors who came in as freshmen and committed to a cause of improving Marshall and creating a good team culture. I think they’ve certainly done that.”

Indeed, Marshall’s seniors combined for an impressive 3.41 GPA, 28 wins, 28 goals, and 28 assists in their four-year tenure, and helped see Marshall advance to its first-ever C-USA tournament berth in 2009. With at least one more game to go, the ladies will be hoping to improve those stats in the 2011 season’s final stages.

“The win itself is a win we’ve been hungry for,” continued Long, “and regardless of senior day, it was important to get the victory in what is our last home game of the season and in what may be our final game ever at Sam Hood Field. I’m thrilled with the result and with the fact that we played well from front to back today. Now we get ready for East Carolina.”