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Marshall takes on No. 3 Indiana in College Cup final

CARY, N.C. — All it takes is just one shot. The North Carolina Tar Heels found that out the hard way on Friday, as Marshall’s Jamil Roberts found the back of the net in the 60th minute to send MU to its first College Cup National Championship game in program history.

It was a treacherous path to the final, where the Herd plays No. 3 Indiana at 8 p.m. on Monday. With the title match being televised on ESPN2, Marshall (12-2-3) puts it all on the line with WakeMed Soccer Park hosting the championship.

The unseeded Herd is only the fourth such team to make the College Cup final since the 16-seed format began in 2003, and the team boasts an impressive resume en route to the tilt with Indiana. First, MU took care of Fordham with a 2-1 overtime win in the second round of the tournament. The drama did not stop there, as No. 1 Clemson came calling in the round of 16. Once there, Marshall knocked off the Tigers by winning in a 7-6 penalty kick shootout. If that wasn’t enough to prove the Herd’s staying power, they defeated defending-champion Georgetown 1-0 in dramatic fashion.

Goalkeeper Oliver Semmle fended off seven Tar Heel corner kicks and 11 shots to preserve the needed shutout, as Roberts’s goal represented the only shot-on-goal for MU. On the season, Semmle has been in top form, allowing seven goals and recording 25 saves. He stepped up against Clemson, as well. The Tigers only scored once in regulation, and Semmle faced 12 shots throughout that contest. Head coach Chris Grassie talked about how his team (that finished the regular season ranked No. 10 in the country) faced adversity, and he commended the effort of everyone involved during his postgame press conference.

“I thought we possessed the ball really well. I thought we could’ve had a lit bit more penetration,” he said. “(North Carolina) had a lot of, sort of, off-chances and things around the box, but we knew we would break them entirely, at one point. They’d been running and running, and it happened once with Jamil getting in. Not our greatest penetrative performance, but as a team, we’re trusting each other by playing our style. We still have a couple of levels to go, which is great to see and something to work on in the next couple days before the final.”

Grassie added that he believes his team hasn’t yet played its best. That’s something everyone in green and white can hang their hats on. Speaking to the media about his game-winning goal, Roberts relived that moment and what it meant to him. The goal was scored when Vitor Dias found a covered Milo Yosef, who then passed to Roberts for a shot in front of the net in between the legs of UNC’s goalie.

I needed the flick (from Dias). Milo drove down the righthand side and he saw me,” Roberts said. “I think it was just a miscue pass, but Vitor’s been doing it all season with some magic in and around the box. He flicks it around the corner to me, and it was up to me to finish it. Happily, I did.”

Now, Marshall turns its attention to the Hoosiers (12-1-2). Indiana used the lone goal in the 79th minute from Herbert Endeley to down No. 2 Pittsburgh in the second semifinal of the night. GK Roman Celetano recorded another shutout for the Hoosiers, as he has recorded 52 saves while allowing only five goals. He faced a season-high 15 shots against St. Francis Brooklyn during a second-round College Cup tournament victory, so he is no stranger to performing with all the pressure on him.

While Marshall spreads the ball out when scoring, Indiana’s most noteworthy striker is Victor Bereza.

He leads the team with 12 goals on the year.

Dias leads Marshall with six, while Roberts, Yosef and Erik-Jan Leinhos all follow with four goals apiece.

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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