Marshall Sends Sam Hood Field, Seniors, Off With a Win

Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

HUNTINGTON, WV - After 15 years of seeing the Herd accumulate a 76-35-9 record on its turf, Sam Hood Field just couldn't go out without a bang.

Junior midfielder Devin Perkins grabbed two goals from Carl Munday and Jordan Hilgefort assists to give the Thundering Herd a crucial 2-1, double-overtime win against Tulsa on senior night, and in the process ensured that Sam Hood Field's final game would be enshrined with a Herd victory.

Indeed, it was a night of appreciation, as both Marshall's three seniors - Carl Munday, Jordan Hilgefort, and Kyle Sniatecki - were honored for their service to the team and community, and Sam Hood was once again thanked for providing a field that has been home to Marshall soccer since 1996. Yet at such a late stage in the season, and with the rainy weather having moved out only hours before kickoff, the surface of Sam Hood Field looked the near opposite of pristine. Unfortunately for Marshall and Tulsa, some of the players' tackles were of a similar order, and a total of three players were sent off with red cards by the end of the 108-minute match.

The pace of the game was set from the start as Tulsa, who entered the match dead-last in Conference USA with a 5-10-0 (1-5-0) record, moved full-steam-ahead with nothing to lose. The Herd on the other hand, was sitting at 7-6-1 (3-2-1) with its place already booked in the C-USA postseason tournament, but wanted to send both its field and its seniors out on a high note.

Fittingly, it was senior forward Carl Munday who got things started for the Herd, as he took a shot in the 23rd minute that found its way to the feet of Perkins following a great save by Tulsa keeper Michael Murray. Perkins then made no mistake in slamming the ball into the open net for a 1-0 Marshall lead and his first goal of the 2011 season.

Following a first half that saw both teams create several chances, the second half began with Tulsa being the first to capitalize on its offensive opportunities. Midfielder Stephen Robertson cut in from the sideline and laid the ball back for a wide-open Tom Gaus to slam home from close range.

From there, though, the Marshall defense stiffened up, and it would need to after starting center back Travis Brent was sent off for an altercation with Tulsa's Roberson. The pair received their marching orders in the 55th minute, and from there the game picked-up pace as both sides took use of the extra space.

Yet even with both teams combining for 30 shots in regulation, neither side could find the back of the net, and the game progressed to overtime. There, an eventless opening period turned sour for the Golden Hurricane when defender Blaine Gonsalves was sent-off with the team's second red card of the match. Gonsalves was the last man in-line to stop a Herd breakaway, and his desperate challenge found little favor in the eyes of referee Sam Trigui.

Down to nine men, Tulsa looked set to pack it in and walk away with the draw, but nearly squeezed-out a win as Gaus came close to scoring his second goal of the match. Marshall goalkeeper Daniel Withrow was equal to the Hurricane shots, though, and ended the game with six saves.

For Marshall, though, a win was the desired outcome, and in the 108th minute of play Devin Perkins put the appropriate punctuation on Sam Hood Field by scoring the golden goal in the second overtime period. Senior Jordan Hilgefort appropriately earned the assist, as his well-timed through ball set Perkins free to slot home from 12-yards out. The score sent the fans into a frenzy, and the team stormed the field in celebration of the monumental victory.

"To say this game was exciting would be an understatement," said Head Coach Bob Gray. "It came down to the end, and Tulsa played hard, but in the end it is sweet to get that win on senior night and with the nostalgia of this being our final game at Sam Hood. Even though Tulsa is last in the conference, they are still a good side, and this win has hopefully given us some momentum heading to UCF and to the Conference USA tournament beyond that. "

With the win the Herd moves to 8-6-1 on the season, and has elevated itself to third place in the conference for the time-being. Having already clinched a berth in the C-USA tournament, next Saturday's match against UCF becomes that much bigger with postseason seeding on the line.

The UCF game will kickoff at 7:00 p.m. this Saturday in Orlando, Fla., and will pit Marshall against a UCF team that was ranked as high as No. 9 in the country earlier this season. The match will be the Herd's final game of the 2011 regular season before it heads to the C-USA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla., on November 9.

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