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HUNTINGTON — The last time Marshall men’s soccer took part in the NCAA Tournament, the Thundering Herd left the field hoisting the College Cup trophy after defeating Indiana.

Marshall head coach Chris Grassie has visions of his team repeating, but to do so, they will have to regain the chemistry that made them one of the country’s top teams throughout the majority of the 2021 season.

Marshall starts its new journey in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament at 1 p.m. Sunday when the Herd hosts Providence at Hoops Family Field.

Getting back to Huntington and performing in front of Marshall’s fans is something that Grassie and Marshall’s players said was exactly what they needed to start the spark of another potential title run.

“We’re happy to have at least one game here with these fans so we get to celebrate with them and, hopefully, get to perform and entertain the great fans that have helped us all the way through,” Grassie said.

As Marshall gets set to take on Providence, they take on a team that Grassie knows has plenty of talent, which was indicative after the Friars’ 2-0 win over Marist that set up Sunday’s matchup.

Grassie and Providence head coach Craig Stewart are also familiar with each other, given their roots.

“He’s from Newcastle just like me,” Grassie said. “We’re good friends.”

That friendship is not the only one that will be present in the second-round meeting between Marshall and Providence.

Once Marshall’s draw became known, Marshall defender Nathan Dossantos said he was hoping for the Friars to get the win over Marist.

“From a personal standpoint, my best friend plays for Providence,” Dossantos said. “There’s nothing more I want than for that game to happen.”

Dossantos got his wish, but he and the Herd will have to fend off a pesky Providence side that has put up 39 goals on the season.

The Friars are also 10-0-1 when scoring two or more goals this season, which means the onus is on Marshall’s defense — led by Dossantos — to slow down that attack.

That is something the Herd struggled with in consecutive losses to end the season, allowing seven goals in losses to FIU and Florida Atlantic.

Providence also comes in with some NCAA Tournament pedigree, having appeared 11 times in the pinnacle collegiate soccer event.

In 2019, Providence advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, topping NJIT in the first round before scoring a 3-2 overtime upset of No. 13 Penn State.

Marshall also advanced to that NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2019 and used that experience to propel the team to the 2020-21 NCAA Championship.

This season is different because Marshall goes from the feel-good underdog story to the hunted as everyone looks to take down the national champions.

“We’re just going to play our best, and we know we can beat anyone in the country,” Grassie said.

Grant Traylor is the sports editor of The Herald-Dispatch, who also covers Marshall athletics for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.

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