HUNTINGTON — For the second time in three games, the fifth-ranked Marshall Thundering Herd men’s soccer team played to a draw against No. 10 Kentucky in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 1,728.
Defense won the night, with star performances from Herd goalkeeper Oliver Semmle and the seemingly impenetrable Kentucky back line, which came in allowing just two goals in six matches.
“They did a very good job coming with five (defenders) across the back and three in front. I think Kentucky’s job tonight was to set up shop and pack the box and try and create chances on a few mistakes,” Marshall coach Chris Grassie said.
The Wildcats (5-0-2) executed that gameplay well. Despite controlling possession for the majority of the evening, Marshall (4-1-3) managed just three shot attempts in regulation and three more in the overtime periods.
The first and only shot-on-goal from Marshall came in the final 10 seconds of the first overtime period, a header from Vitor Dias that was easily saved by Kentucky goalkeeper Jan Hoffelner.
Their final chance of the night came when Dias created a chance for Ibrahima Diop, who had a clean look at the goal but left the shot wide of the net with five minutes left in the second overtime.
In the net for Marshall, Semmle was put to work, making five saves in as many on-target shots against him from the Wildcats’ offense.
In the first half, he saved a point-blank attempt from Martin Soereide; in the second half, the senior goalkeeper used his body to keep two shots out of the net early.
“That was important in terms of not conceding a goal. Kentucky was already packing the box, and things would have been even harder for us if we needed one goal or even two,” Semmle said of his five-save performance.
It was the second-highest number of saves he’s recorded this season, just one behind his six saves against Coastal Carolina. Five of Kentucky’s eight shots were on goal. It’s the fourth time Marshall has allowed more shots than it took in a match this year.
“He did a great job coming out and making the saves,” Grassie said. “He doesn’t have to make many saves, but obviously he makes them in moments like tonight.”
Kentucky was the fifth nationally ranked club the Herd has faced through eight games this season — a grueling stretch for the defending national champions, but one they’ve accepted the challenge of, Grassie said.
Next up for Marshall is Butler, who will visit Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex on Wednesday, Sept. 29, the last of a four-game homestead for the Thundering Herd, whose unbeaten streak was extended to six matches Saturday night.