HUNTINGTON — Last Sunday, Marshall midfielder Pedro Dolabella experienced the gamut of emotions on the soccer pitch at Hoops Family Field.
As Marshall took part in the Conference USA championship, the team goal was to get the program’s second consecutive league title and berth in the NCAA College Cup.
From an individual perspective, it was about much more for Dolabella.
While Marshall’s program was seeking its second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, a win would mean that Dolabella would finally get his chance to compete in the NCAA championships.
In 2019, Dolabella’s golden goal in the 1-0 overtime win over Charlotte pushed Marshall to its first Conference USA championship and NCAA appearance.
However, the senior midfielder from Brazil was unable to take part in the NCAA Tournament after a suspension handed down due to card accumulation error that was carried over from the 2018 season, which left him suspended once realized.
It was a devastating turn of events for Dolabella, who went from the hero who sent Marshall to the NCAA College Cup to a spectator while his teammates competed against in-state rival West Virginia on the home pitch in Huntington.
“After I scored the goal in the (C-USA) final and we played in the NCAA Tournament, I saw all the guys playing and I was suspended, and I was like, ‘Man, I have to be part of this someday,’” Dolabella said.
For one of Marshall’s most emotional players, there is a fire that burns within him when it comes to the sport, which made the situation that much more difficult to take.
Last Sunday’s match against Charlotte brought several elements of emotion together, which he had to manage.
There was the excitement of playing in a Conference USA championship match in Huntington.
There was the anger of missing last season’s NCAA College Cup due to the administrative error from the prior season.
And there was the determination in facing Charlotte — a team which he sought to join out of high school, but told him that he wasn’t good enough to play for them.
It had Dolabella heightened for last week’s match against the 49ers in which he could not only help his team to victory, but also finally get the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament himself.
“I was fired up, even with the pregame speech with the guys,” Dolabella said. “I kept looking everyone in the eyes and I was angry.”
Dolabella called it the “orange zone” — when you’re angry, ready to go and locked in.
It wasn’t the “red zone,” which is when players lose their heads, he said.
In years past, Dolabella may have stepped over that line into the red zone, which could have hurt his team.
Instead, the veteran leader channeled his emotions into his right foot, firing a 30-yard strike that got over the outstretched arms of Charlotte goalkeeper Austin Mullins and kissed the crossbar before bounding into the net.
For Dolabella, the goal could not have been more poetic.
“We’ve got this chance again,” Dolabella said while smiling on the Zoom press conference.
It was Dolabella’s first goal since that 2019 C-USA championship clincher, and it could not have come at a better time for him or the Herd.
The kick solidified Marshall’s journey into the NCAA College Cup, which means a battle with Fordham at 1 p.m. on May 2 in Wilson, North Carolina.
This time around, Dolabella plans on suiting up as more than a spectator for the Herd as they make their NCAA run.