Messiah Field Hockey Falls 3-1 To Ursinus In NCAA 2nd Round
By Cody Swartz, Gomessiah.com Reporter
Messiah was supposed to knock off Ursinus College in their first game of the playoffs, win again on Sunday, and come away victorious in both the Final Four and national championship games the next weekend, bringing home the first national championship title in the program’s history in what is also Coach Jan Trapp’s final year with the team.
Reality didn’t allow this though, as the Messiah Falcons (14-4) suffered a heartbreaking 3-1 loss to Ursinus College (18-3) in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs, thus ending the Falcons’ season. It will go down as the final game of Trapp’s storied career, as the Hall of Fame coach had made it known she would be retiring after the season.
“It’s too bad it’s over, but I am very appreciative of all the years I have had. I love this team and I love every girl on this team,” said Trapp, the Falcons’ head coach for the past 39 years.
Today’s contest was a matchup between teams with quite a bit of history between them: The Falcons have beat the Ursinus Bears five years running in the regular season and each of the past two years in the Final Four, and the Bears previously ended Messiah’s season back in 2005.
Defense was the name of the game for the first 50 minutes of the contest, as neither team could score. Messiah put up a sizeable margin in shots – finishing with 25 to the Bears’ 12 – but goalkeeper Jill Lukens played a tremendous game in the cage, saving eight shots. Falcons’ sophomore goalie Kayleigh Stewart – a Second-Team All-Conference player – finished with four saves of her own.
Falcons’ junior forward Juliana Hershey finally broke through with 19:44 to play, knocking in her team-best 23rd goal of the season to give Messiah a 1-0 lead. Senior All-American forward Kourtney Ehly took the assist, her team-high 11th and 38th of her career, good for fourth place on Messiah’s all-time list.
“That was an absolutely unbelievable assist by Kourtney (Ehly),” Trapp said. “She reached way out and knocked a pass to Juliana, who scored.”
A 1-0 lead seemed like it would hold for the remainder of the contest, as the Falcons’ top-notch defense had given up just one score in the previous seven games.
The Bears then proceeded to pull off an almost unforeseen barrage of goals, scoring three times in a 5:22 mark that proved to be too much for Messiah to overcome.
“It was just defensive breakdowns on our part,” Trapp said. “That’s all it was.”
Senior Nicole Hanby notched the first one with just eight minutes to play, tying the game at one goal apiece, and classmate Alyssa Thren converted two scores almost back-to-back, giving the Bears a two-score lead that seemed to come in the blink of an eye.
A desperate attempt by the Falcons to come back fell short, as Hershey put up several shots on goal but to no avail.
“We just couldn’t finish (on offense),” Trapp said. “We had a lot of pressure on them and we even had a goal called back earlier that would have made it 2-0, but we just didn’t take advantage of our shots.”
The Falcons’ 3-1 loss was just the second time this season Messiah had given up as many as three goals in one game, the other time being a 3-1 loss to Salisbury back on September 20.
Before that, the last time the Falcons gave up three goals in one contest was an early-season matchup to Ursinus in 2010, and prior to that game, it had been the 2009 NCAA National Semi-Finals game to none other than Ursinus. As for giving up three goals in a five-minute span, that hasn’t happened as far back as the Messiah field hockey archives go.
So Saturday’s loss wasn’t a pretty one, but it shouldn’t diminish the stellar season the Falcons had. Mired at 5-3 after a 2-1 loss to The College of New Jersey in early October, Messiah rebounded to win nine straight games, capturing their fifth consecutive Commonwealth Conference championship in the process – the 18th in the program’s history.