MORGANTOWN — When Jamil Roberts collected the rebound and put the ball in the back of the net during Monday’s men’s soccer national championship, Collin Mocyunas was almost delirious about what he and his team just accomplished.
Mocyunas had just played all 97 minutes for the Marshall men’s soccer team against Indiana in the Division I NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, and in a split second during sudden-death overtime, the mission was accomplished.
“The only way to describe that feeling was complete disbelief,” said Mocyunas, a 2017 University High grad. “We fully believed in our ability to win it all from the start of the tournament, but the moment it all came true was incomprehensible. I collapsed to my knees when the celebration initially started and it took a good minute or two before I was able to let myself take a breath and recognize that the job was done.”
The Thundering Herd pulled off a memorable run filled with upsets and thrills to claim the first national title in program history. Along the way, it beat Fordham in overtime, beat No. 1 Clemson with penalty kicks, knocked off defending national champion Georgetown, beat perennial power North Carolina, and culminated with the overtime win over the Hoosiers.
As fans rushed the field after the match, the realization for Mocyunas started to set in.
“The support we have for our team here is incredible,” he said. “We truly showed the college soccer world how dedicated fans can be and we want everyone to know that we could never have done this without the love and support of Huntington and the entire state. In spite of all the COVID protocols in place, the moment the game ended, our fans rushed the field, and since then, I don’t know if I have blinked. The praise we have received has been completely overwhelming and it’s made this entire experience that much more unforgettable.”
The team stayed in Cary, N.C., the night after the match and returned to Huntington on Tuesday for another celebration for those who couldn’t attend. The Herd rolled into town on a charter bus and arrived at a packed Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex.
Of the five West Virginia natives on the team, Mocyunas is the only one in the starting lineup for the Herd. This season as a redshirt junior, he was named second-team All-Conference USA, and was also recognized as the conference Defensive Player of the Week in mid-March.
Originally from Ravenswood, Mocyunas’ father got a job in Morgantown while Collin was in middle school. Once there, he played for the Fury Soccer Club under Kernell Borneo, and then Arsenal FC of Pittsburgh in his final two years of high school.
While at UHS, Mocyunas was named the state Midfielder of the Year as a senior in 2016, as well as first team all-state while helping the Hawks reach the state title game.
“Being from Ravenswood, I was exposed to WVU and Marshall athletics pretty equally as a kid, and once I was presented the chance to represent the state at Marshall, I could not pass up that chance,” he said. “Huntington truly has become home over the past few years and I believe I may be one of the few that can proudly claim Huntington and Morgantown as home.”
With Marshall’s title win, college soccer in the Mountain State is becoming more and more prominent on the national level. In 2016, the WVU women’s soccer team played for the national championship but ultimately lost to North Carolina. The University of Charleston men’s soccer program won the Division II titles in 2017 and 2019.
Continued success could grow the game at the younger levels, according to Mocyunas.
“I think it’s huge for the development of soccer in the state,” he said. “West Virginia is currently a huge powerhouse in collegiate soccer, and all of this excitement around it will no doubt fuel the growth of youth players throughout the state. I hope that my path and success with this team is able to resonate with a lot of kids, and in the future, allow more local players to thrive on national championship-level teams.
“I really hope that this can be proof for athletes across the state that truly anything is possible, and having that belief is all you need to make dreams come true.”