CARY, NC – It will take more than long lines and a huge shortage of gas to keep Marshall fans out of the story.
They were in full force again on Friday, turning the stands at Sahlen Stadium into a green wave of support for the Thundering Herd football team as they faced North Carolina in the semifinals of the College Cup tournament. the NCAA.
The people of Huntington have been talking about the event as much as the team on the pitch, having had an impressive run that includes upset victories over No.1 seed Clemson and defending national champion Georgetown.
And their number has grown even more as the games move from the smaller auxiliary fields to the main stadium with its increased capacity.
“Herding enthusiasts are the best,” said Terry Phillips, who drove the six-hour drive with his wife and two young children. “We bring a lot of energy with us. I’m not at all surprised that we came up with those kinds of numbers. “
Friday’s game was the second Phillips attended during the tournament. Others, including the group of students known as the Marshall Maniacs, traveled every game to stand in the front row of the stands and sing and heckle opposing players.
The constant back-and-forth took a toll on both the vehicles in the three-car trailer that took the students to the game, as well as their bodies. But as Madison Vogler, member of the Marshall Women’s Team, said, “It’s something you have to do while you’re young.
“It’s exhausting, but it’s exciting,” added junior Katherine Gonzalez. “It’s definitely worth being a part of it. We are the biggest fans of boys.
Their presence in the stands was noticeable to the herd and was a source of energy they fed on for three games.
After each victory, players and coaches crossed the pitch to greet and then celebrate with their classmates, families and others in attendance to cheer them on.
“The support from Herd Nation has been absolutely fantastic,” said coach Chris Grassie. “But they’ve shown us that since 2019, coming to matches. We have broken the record several times at the stadium, and they are following us here. We know tickets are a hot item in Huntington and the fans are amazing. “
Each team received 200 NCAA tickets. The remainder of the approximately 3,000 tickets available were sold on a first come, first served basis.
And Marshall fans were quick to gobble up as many as possible.
A large contingent gathered in the parking lot hours before Friday’s game, socializing and reveling in the attention their school suddenly receives in their quest for their first major NCAA National Title.
They gathered under three large green tents, preparing for the game by playing Cornhole on Thundering Herd-themed boards and chanting “We Are… Marshall” – only stopping to form a receiving line that applauded the team bus as it arrived at the stadium. .
It was a sight that brought a smile to Bob Gray, retired Herd coach.
“It was my dream, but now it’s a reality,” said Gray, who gave way to Grassie in 2016. “I’ve been here a few times for the College Cup and seen the names of the teams displayed on the touchline. I always thought that one day Marshall was going to have their name up there, and of course, it’s the weekend. We’ve come a long way, and it’s phenomenal.
Besides hiring Grassie, who took the University of Charleston to three College Cups – including a pair of national championship matches – and recruiting top international talent such as Vitor Dias, Jamil Roberts, Milo Yosef and the Goalkeeper Oliver Semmle – The most important development in the boom of the program was the construction of the Hoops family field.
“We built this $ 8 million to $ 9 million stadium about seven or eight years ago, and it’s as good a facility as any in the country,” said athletic director Mike Hamrick. “I took a lot of heat for that. People asked, “Why are you building such a big and beautiful stadium for your football program?”
Watching the scene surrounding him on a night when the herd was one of the four remaining teams in the national tournament, Hamrick had his answer.
“That’s why,” he said.