ON THE MARK: Soccer mania, MEC baseball ... and MC memories: Column
SOCCER MANIA: The Tri-State and beyond has been enjoying the thrill-of-a-lifetime in the circles of sports with Marshall University’s national championship run in men’s soccer.
Unless vacationing on a deserted island, then you know by now that Chris Grassie’s Thundering Herd captured the crown of the prestigious College Cup over national powerhouse Indiana, 1-0.
While Marshall was making a first-ever trip to a national title game in the sport, it was the 16th appearance for Indiana. The Hoosier program — college soccer’s most decorated of all — was aiming for a ninth national title.
But it was Marshall who came away victorious by scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. The ball off the foot of Jamil Roberts was scored in the game’s 98th minute.
It marked the third straight game in which Roberts had provided the game-winner.
Marshall’s road in Cary, N.C., (where the entire tournament was played) to the national crown started with a 2-1 overtime win against Fordham.
That was followed by a defeat of No. 1 ranked Clemson, 7-6, on penalty kicks.
The Herd moved into the Elite Eight and took down defending national champion Georgetown, 1-0.
Another 1-0 victory was produced against North Carolina to set the stage for the matchup with Indiana (who defeated Pitt in its semifinal).
The fourth team for Grassie, a former University of Charleston head coach, is made up of 23 international players.
It is the greatest of great when it comes to sports stories.
And best of all when it comes to this section of West Virginia is the fact there is a Jackson County connection.
Herd defender Collin Mocyunas once lived in Ravenswood, where he got his start in the sport he so deeply loves. Since his humble beginning, he has excelled in the sport through the years at a very high level.
Mocyunas’ father, Jason, was a standout basketball player at Ravenswood for veteran Mick Price. He was part of a Class AA state tournament team in 1991 that fell by one to eventual champion Tolsia in the opening round.
Collin’s mother is the former Amy Craigo, also a 1994 Ravenswood High graduate.
The family eventually moved from Ravenswood, after Collin's fifth-grade year, to Morgantown where he would ultimately star for University High School before making his way to Marshall.
When interviewed about being the lone West Virginian in the starting lineup, Collin certainly showed he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He noted saying that while his hometown is listed as Morgantown he spent half of his life in Ravenswood.
Following this Marshall team’s ascent to the top of the mountain in NCAA Division I men’s soccer was a lot of fun, and it was made extra special by a classy young man who got his start right as a soccer player right here in Jackson County.
MEC BASEBALL WITH JC FLAVOR: The Mountain East Conference Championship Baseball Tournament in Beckley had its share of Jackson Countians.
Tournament champion West Virginia State University’s roster includes third baseman Christopher Jordan and pitcher Dane Peterson, a pair of former Ripley Viking standouts.
Jordan was instrumental in the Yellow Jackets fighting their way out of the consolation bracket to take the title. He had 10 hits in six games and was named to the All-Tournament team.
The team which sent state to the consolation bracket was Alderson-Broaddus.
Interestingly, the starting third baseman for the Battlers was also a former Viking in Lane Casto.
It was neat watching the game and see those two manning the hot corner. A-B downed the Jackets, 6-5, in the tourney opener. A-B would go on to finish 2-2 in the tournament.
This was A-B’s first-ever trip to the six-team, double-elimination tournament.
Jordan and Casto, who was Honorable Mention All-MEC, are seniors. Peterson is a sophomore.
With the tournament title, state moves on to the NCAA Division II Atlantic/East Regional in Charleston.
Former Ravenswood Red Devil standout Stephen Dawson also suited in the tournament for Wheeling University.
Dawson is a redshirt freshman pitcher for the Cardinal program that was making its first appearance in the championship event.
REMEMBERING MARK CURREY: The recent passing of Mark Currey was a tough blow to yours truly.
The 1982 graduate of Ripley High was an excellent quarterback and wrestler during his days as a Viking.
Backing up the late All-State quarterback Mickey Marino (another dear friend) for two years, Mark waited patiently, worked hard and finally got his chance to be the starter in the season of 1981. He was instrumental in leading the Vikings to a fine 7-3 record, including a season-ending Battle of the Hatchet victory over rival Ravenswood.
Mark was the consummate field general, who possessed great leadership, a strong arm, determination, grit and a will to win.
Besides football, he enjoyed success on the mats and was a two-time Class AAA state tournament qualifier.
During my college days playing football (1979-82), I spent a considerable amount of time with Mark. His oldest brother, Jeff, also an excellent quarterback, was my closest friend and spent many days and nights at my home. We worked at football non-stop between our junior and senior seasons of 1977 and 1978.
Mark would enter the picture when he arrived at Ripley High and those two became brothers. The three of us spent hours and hours together.
With Mark being the quarterback and me the receiver, it seems as though there were days he would throw and I would catch footballs from sunup until sundown.
When we weren’t throwing and catching at our many locations (Memorial Stadium, Cedar Lakes, Gilmore Elementary, etc.), we would be out running or lifting weights.
But most of all, (along with Jeff) we laughed ... a lot.
We were constantly laughing about something until our sides hurt.
Without question, it was one of the best times of my life.
A time in my life to be forever cherished.
Rest in peace, Mark Albert.