Oct. 16, 2013
By CHRIS DICKERSON
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Sometimes, destiny makes a soccer ball bounce in funny ways.
Marshall University men's goalkeeper Danny Sellitti knows all about it.
Sellitti was a standout goalie at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz. He posted a career 29-3-3 record with the Roughriders, a perennial junior college power.
After two years at Yavapai, it was time for Sellitti to find a bigger school to finish his education and continue playing soccer. He signed a National Letter of Intent with Western Michigan.
But after he signed that letter, the Broncos made a coaching change. Sellitti was told he wouldn't fit into the new coach's plan.
So, in May, when most college soccer programs are done recruiting, Sellitti was left scrambling.
About a week "after the whole Western Michigan thing kinda tanked," Sellitti's father got a call from Lee Booten, a Huntington attorney who was his fraternity buddy at Marshall in the mid- to late-1970s.
Booten knew one of the MU women's soccer coaches and put in a good word about the younger Sellitti.
"I sent some video to Coach (Bob) Gray," Sellitti said. "I was just looking for a chance. He was nice enough to give me a shot. I knew once I got the chance, I would make the most of it."
So now, the younger Sellitti walks the same campus his father did nearly 40 years ago.
"I am happy here," the Las Vegas native said. "Dad is happy I went here, too. I feel like it all worked out the way it was supposed to."
In fact, Sellitti's father was visiting Huntington last week to watch his son play.
"He also came down with me in July to get me set up," Sellitti said. "He caught up with some old friends. My cousin used to own The Varsity Club, which is now The Union. So he got to go there and see the place again. So, that's been nice."
In another example of how tight the Marshall family is, another of his dad's old fraternity buddies - David Hunter - has a son, senior midfielder Zack Hunter, on the Herd team.
"I love it here," Sellitti said of Huntington and Marshall. "I'm definitely into the small-town atmosphere. The campus is small enough to walk everywhere, but it's still big enough to be known nationwide. I have no complaints. Even the weather right now is fantastic."
In another small-world scenario, Gray and Sellitti's junior college coach - Michael Pantilione - grew up in the same area of New Jersey and have coached their respective programs for at least two decades.
"I got a call from his junior college coach," Gray said. "He played for a very good junior college program in Yavapai. And with us losing Daniel Withrow (Conference USA's Co-Player of the Year last season and current member of the MLS Columbus Crew), goalkeeping was wide open for us. So, we went for it.
"He's a great kid and a pleasure to be around. He's thrilled to be walking on the same campus his dad walked years ago as a student. He truly fits into the mold of `We Are ... Marshall.' It's a family affair for him."
Gray also is pleased with Sellitti's performance on the pitch.
"Needless to say, Danny is panning out quite well for us," Gray said. "He has some experience to gain and a little to learn about what Division I soccer is all about. But, he has a great attitude. He works his tail off. And he has taken some leadership roles already, which he needs to do in that position."
"Actually, playing soccer here hasn't been that big of an adjustment for me," he said. "Both Coach Gray and my coach at Yavapai are from the same town in New Jersey, and they have a set system that is similar. They're blue-collar type of coaches. They want guys who are going to work for them instead of a bunch of pretty boys.
"Keeping up with the school work has been more difficult for me, to be honest. Sure, the level of competition definitely is better here at Marshall than in junior college. And there is the added pressure of playing Division I soccer, plus the move to the East Coast."
After a solid 11-5-1 campaign last fall, the Herd has started this season with a 2-6-3 record, but Gray sees a silver lining.
"We're a young team," he said. "We knew we would struggle a little this year at times. But we continue to get better and better, and we're probably playing the toughest schedule in Marshall's history. What people don't realize is we're really maturing and gaining a ton of experience. The future bodes well with these young guys.
"In our games so far this season, we're holding our own. I guess you could say we're the hard-luck kids this year."
This story first appeared in Issue 8 of Herd insider and on GoHerd.com.