MCGILL: Men's soccer team reloads, ready for opener
The Word on the Herd -- Aug. 26, 2016
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By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Thomas Olivier, an assistant coach for the men’s soccer program at Marshall University, sat inside his office at the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex on Tuesday afternoon, four days before the official season opener.
It just so happened to be the four-year anniversary of the opening of the team’s soccer facility, a 1,006-seat stadium built on the site of the Veterans Memorial Fieldhouse.
Olivier thought back to the facility’s infancy, when it was merely an idea and then a proposal from Mike Hamrick, MU’s Director of Athletics, to Olivier and head coach Bob Gray. As the three men sat inside the soccer program’s Henderson Center office years ago, Hamrick told them about the money he was going to raise to build the $8 million facility that would house the men’s and women’s soccer programs.
It was a dream that came to fruition and changed the direction of men’s soccer here, and helped shape the lineup the Thundering Herd will debut Friday night (7 p.m.) against Western Michigan.
“Why is all of that important?” Olivier said after recalling how he arrived to this day. “Well, it’s important for our players, of course, and it has helped us tremendously with our recruiting. We used to have the second-worst facility in the conference and now we’re top two, for sure.
“The facility has allowed us to recruit a higher level of player.”
Marshall, 8-9-2 overall last season and 2-5-1 in Conference USA play, lost seven seniors, four of its top five in minutes played and both goalkeepers. The Herd advanced to the C-USA tournament championship game before falling to FIU, 1-0.
If Marshall has ambitions of matching or exceeding that accomplishment, the task will be replacing the departed. That’s easier now with the Vet, according to Olivier and others.
“I don’t even think about it as rebuilding anymore,” said Tommy Trupo, a rising senior from Charleston Catholic High School. “It’s reload. We lost a big group of seniors and four or five of them were very important, but we still brought back five or six starters.
“We were more of a team last year than one or two guys who could hurt you. I think that’s why we had the success we had, so we have to just get our freshmen up to speed.”
The 11-member class is the kind of shot in the arm it would’ve been hard to expect before the facility they call “The Vet” existed.
“We have a brand new facility and now we have to elevate the program,” Olivier said. “What do we do? We have to go after U.S. academy-level players and high-level national players. That’s what we’ve done. This is a year-and-a-half process getting these guys here and we’re bringing in guys with a huge pedigree, which we haven’t had before.
“This is a big class and we wanted to address specific needs,” he added. “We wanted experience and maturity, so we got international guys and junior college transfers who have played at a high level. We wanted to bring in freshmen who have played at a high-level academy. We’ve done that, so now our big thing during preseason was to mesh our current guys with new experienced guys with new immature guys who have played at a high level. This fall, we’ll be young. That’s good. We just don’t want to be young and dumb.”
In addition to Trupo, who played in all 17 games (eight starts) last season, the Herd welcomes back Daniel Jodah (3 goals in 17 games), Arthur Duchesne (15 starts), John Pappas (13 starts) and Trevor Starcher (1 goal, 2 assists in 16 games, including eight starts).
“We’ve got a lot of new energy and a lot of new young guys,” said Starcher, a Hurricane native. “They have a lot of passion for the game and they bring a different vibe to the team.”
MU plays two home games on opening weekend. The Herd hosts Detroit on Sunday at 1 p.m. First, though, the men’s soccer seniors are hoping for a packed house for the season opener on the first true weekend of the school year.
“There is nothing better than Friday night under the lights,” Starcher said. “It’s a different feeling. You kind of get chill bumps when you come out of the locker room and see the stands, and we want the stands to be full.”