The rematch was just as good as the first meeting. The only difference was the team that won.
No. 1 Marshall (17-2), the top-ranked team in the country and the top-seeded team in the Sun Belt Conference Championship tournament, defeated the third-seeded Mountaineers 3-2 Sunday afternoon in Huntington. No. 5 West Virginia (14-2-4), aiming to defeat the Thundering Herd for the second time this season and claim its first Sun Belt title, fell just shy of those goals.
After scoring two goals in the opening 30:06 of the match, West Virginia was held scoreless the rest of the way.
Alvaro Garcia-Pascual’s second goal of the match in the 77th minute proved to be the difference on the scoreboard. It was the culmination of the Marshall attack bombarding the Mountaineer back line and keeper Jackson Lee for more than 25 minutes.
Marshall out-shot West Virginia 17-10, and took two more shots on goal, though the pressure the Herd applied was consistent.
Marshall captured the Sun Belt Conference Men’s Soccer Championship tournament title, and likely wrapped up the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. West Virginia finishes as the conference runner-up, and will most likely be one of the top-eight overall seeds in the national tournament.
The first half was full of fireworks.
Sergio Ors Navarro gave the Mountaineers the initial lead. He sent a laser of a shot into the upper right corner of the net off a deflection from a free kick in the 18th minute.
Marshall controlled the next seven minutes, and eventually drew even as Garcia-Pascual tapped in a ball that was up for grabs by both teams at the six-yard line deep in the box.
Momentum quickly swung back on West Virginia’s side. Senior midfielder Ryan Baer sent a perfect rolling pass toward the box. Ors Navarro outraced the Marshall back line, and struck on his first touch. This time, his shot beat the Marshall keeper to the lower left side of the net, and Ors Navarro’s third goal this year against the Herd gave West Virginia a 2-1 lead in the 31st minute.
Marshall tallied the equalizing goal six minutes later.
The match, clean to that point, was very contentious over the final 10 minutes of the half. The officials conducted multiple reviews, the first of which caused a lengthy delay, and included a yellow card assessed to the Mountaineer bench.
The game was tied 2-2 at the half and stayed that way until Garcia-Pascual’s game-winning goal in the 77th minute.
Ors Navarro, Yutaro Tsukada and Luke McCormick were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Next up for both of these teams is a run in the NCAA Tournament. The brackets and seedings will be announced at 1 p.m. ET on Monday, Nov. 13, on NCAA.com. West Virginia hopes to earn a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would give the Mountaineers home-field advantage through the Elite Eight if they make it that far.
This year’s pair of Mountain State Derby matches drew combined crowds of 6,298. Marshall announced Sunday’s attendance at 3,151 spectators inside Hoops Family Field in Huntington.