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#3 Messiah Falcons Fall To New #1 Salisbury Sea Gulls
#3 Messiah lost a #1-ranking, and a 3-1 game, to top-ranked Salisbury on Tuesday afternoon.

By Cody Swartz, GoMessiah.com reporter
Salisbury, MD – It was a day to forget for the Messiah Falcons, as they saw their No. 1 ranking in the nation drop to third when the weekly rankings came out that morning. At night, the Falcons (3-2) played the newly-top ranked Salisbury Sea Gulls (7-0) and dropped a 3-1 decision, actually going down 3-0 in the contest before a late goal from junior Juliana Hershey put Messiah on the board.

It was the first two-score loss for Messiah in three years – since the 2008 national championship game – and it was the first time Messiah trailed by as many as three goals at halftime since October 14, 2006, when Widener took a 3-0 lead into halftime and coasted to a 4-0 win over the Falcons.

“We still are working to get the right combination of players,” said Jan Trapp, Messiah’s head coach. “We still need that spark and to get chemistry between all of our players. The first half was physically and emotionally draining, and the girls seemed hesitant, almost scared at times, to pursue the ball. (Salisbury) just took the ball down and scored.”

The Sea Gulls took a 1-0 lead on Messiah just 77 seconds into the game, but goals at the 12:01 mark and 24:19 mark parlayed it into a three-score lead on a Messiah defense that was averaging just 1.50 goals against per game this year.

“We allowed them to receive the ball, and the girls need to just step up and step in front,” Trapp said. “We can’t expect the ball to be missed by sticks as good as Salisbury.”

The Falcons got on the board in the second half when junior Juliana Hershey scored unassisted at the 44:25 mark, giving Messiah a glimpse of life and ensuing thoughts of a possible comeback.

“I really did,” said Trapp, when asked if she thought her team would come back at that point. “We won the second half. Everyone on our team played better in the second half and when we did cut off the pass, we were very successful. But everyone was so drained, and after that first goal, we seemed to revert back to our old ways again.”

It did prove to be too little, too late, as Messiah couldn’t overtake a two-goal deficit, ultimately falling to the Sea Gulls, a team the Falcons had dispatched handily last season.

Last year when these two teams played in the regular season, Messiah was No. 2 and Salisbury was No. 1, but the Falcons won via shutout (3-0). When the teams met again in the NCAA playoffs, the Falcons were No. 1 and the Sea Gulls were No. 7, and Messiah won that game, 4-1. Messiah also beat Salisbury 3-2 in the ’09 regular season – that win coming in overtime – but the Sea Gulls came back to knock off the Falcons 1-0 in the national championship, ending Messiah’s hopes for a dream season.

The bottom line is that these two teams have a strong history, and Tuesday’s game will only serve as motivation for Messiah to train harder and get better, because there is a good chance these two teams could meet again this season with much bigger stakes at hand.

“The girls all want to play well, and they’re frustrated with the result, and we’re all working for the same common goal,” Trapp said. “The girls want to know their positions and we have them pretty much set now. Juliana and Emily had great chemistry in today’s game, and we just want the rest of the team to work the same way. A couple of days of practicing with our new lineup will be good, and I know they are going to come out ready to play by Saturday.”

The game with Salisbury was Messiah’s tenth in a row – dating back to last season – playing a nationally-ranked opponent, but Coach Trapp is confident her team will be better off having played so many quality teams early on.

“It helps to show our weaknesses,” Trapp said. “We’ve had a killer start, with all the travel, but it will make us better in the long run, and it is nice to be home again.”

The Falcons host a Lebanon Valley team coming off of consecutive shutouts in Messiah’s next game, as this one is set for 1 p.m. at Starry Field.