Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

HUNTINGTON, WV - The Marshall University men’s soccer team warmed up for its 2011 season on Wednesday afternoon with an exhibition match against the visiting VMI Keydets.

Featuring a lineup that lacked key playmaker Tom Jackson and a few other regulars, the members of the Thundering Herd soccer team took to Sam Hood Field looking to replicate a 2010 performance that had seen them defeat the Keydets by a 3-1 scoreline.

Such would not be the case on this day, though, as VMI stormed out to a first-half lead via Matt Seinfeld’s powerful shot from 25 yards out. Finding himself in space after a Marshall giveaway, the junior midfielder unleashed a powerful drive that flew beyond Daniel Withrow’s fingers into the top corner of the net.

The 30th minute goal put the visitors up 1-0, and they would double that tally some 10 minutes later when substitute Aaron White broke free of the Marshall defense and blasted a low shot beyond the reach of Withrow. Up 2-0, the Keydets sat back for the remainder of the half and took the two goal advantage into the break.

The start of the second half saw the Herd make several changes, most notably on the backline, where senior defenders Jordan Hilgefort and Kyle Sniatecki were replaced by freshman Johnathan Mitchell and junior Fayanga Keita. The new-look Herd showed no signs of duress, though, matching VMI step for step and ratcheting up the pressure on a backline that had allowed 14 Marshall shots in the first half. Backup goalkeeper Michael McCabe was also in the game for the Herd, and did well to deny an early chance off a VMI counterattack.

Meanwhile, sophomore Anthony Virgara took several shots to no avail, ending the match with a game-high eight shots and none on target. Such would prove to be the story for most members of the Herd on the day, though, as the team took 23 shots to VMI’s nine, but could only manage to put one away. That goal came in the 88th minute, as junior Peter Bulat took hold of an errant pass from the Keydet defense and poked it home to make it 2-1 with just two minutes remaining. Marshall put together several more chances in the dying seconds, but couldn’t find the tying goal.

“I thought we competed out there, especially in the second half,” said Head Coach Bob Gray. “But give VMI credit, they were very fit and got behind the ball. Both of their goals came off giveaways and counters, and they were able to pack it in and make it difficult for us to create in the attacking third. The important thing to remember, though, is that it is preseason and that we are experimenting and trying out different people. It’s a long season and we’ll continue to improve.”

The Herd will now travel to Pittsburgh, Penn., for the second and final exhibition match of the preseason against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. Marshall will then play its first three regular season games on the road before returning to Sam Hood Field for the home-opener against ETSU on Sept. 4, at 7:00 PM.