Fifth-Ranked Messiah Pounds Stat Sheet But Falls At LVC, 2-1
Annville, PA — History was altered Wednesday afternoon at Lebanon Valley College’s Herbert Field.
For the Messiah men’s soccer program, it was lineage that would have been preferably unchanged.
Host LVC handed the Falcons a 2-1 loss in the most stinging of fashions, scoring a goal just 37 seconds into play and another off a direct kick with just over five minutes remaining in regulation — scores that belied a 20-9 Messiah advantage in total shots and a 12-3 Falcons’ lead in overall corner kicks.
It was the Dutchmen’s first ever win over the Messiah program in 24 tries, while Wednesday’s defeat was Messiah’s first MAC Commonwealth Conference loss to a team other than Elizabethtown College since the league’s inception.
“Clearly a disappointing result,” said Brad McCarty, Messiah assistant coach. “Lebanon Valley has been playing very good soccer lately, so you have to give them credit.”
Entering the game with a perfect 3-0 league record, LVC (8-6, 4-0) attempted to make a statement before most fans had found their seats. Taking the opening tap at midfield, the Dutchmen quickly advanced the ball down the left side, sucking Messiah (9-2-2, 1-1) into a corner-kick opportunity.
LVC’s Ethan Groff served a ball into the box that was deflected out to teammate Justin Hutchinson, who was perched only steps inside the 18-yard box, just right of center.
As the ball came to his feet, Hutchinson one-timed a hard, low ball to the far post, giving LVC a 1-0 lead only 37 seconds into the game.
While shocking, it was not decimating, according to McCarty.
“We were frustrated to give up a goal, no question,” McCarty said. “But there were 89 and a half minutes left to play. We felt confident that things would not end 1-0.”
It was not until the second half that such pressure paid dividends on the scoreboard, however, as a rejuvenated Messiah attack yielded the game-tying goal just over 15 minutes in. As freshman Kent Ramirez made moves on the left wing, he was fouled. Sophomore Geoff Pezon took the free kick from 25 yards out, sending a low curving ball into the box.
Senior Josh Sanders crashed from the weak side, heading the ball into the back of the net with 61:38 elapsed.
“I thought in the first half, we were okay between the 18’s,” McCarty said. “In the second half, we did a better job of getting behind (LVC’s defense).”
Following Sanders’ score, it appeared all but a certainty that Messiah would eventually tack on the game-winner. Perhaps deflated, LVC’s back line became a literal target over the game’s next 20 minutes, as the Falcons littered the stat sheet with shot after shot.
The opportunities were more than numerous. In the 75th minute, the Dutchmen somehow withstood a 15-second sequence that recorded an incredible four Messiah shots, beginning with a rocket off the left foot of Pezon. LVC keeper Tim Mehl stopped that effort, as he did when freshman Trevor Lee collected the rebound and fired once more.
Pezon then picked the ball out of the air and headed a shot that hit the crossbar, only to deflect back to freshman Danny Thompson, who’s ensuing rebound header sailed just wide of frame.
Only seconds later, the Falcons’ front line was at it again, this time with Pezon providing the most stomach-churning shot of the game. Getting in at the top of the box, Pezon slotted a beauty of a shot that hit the right post and caromed across the entire length of the goal mouth, only to miss the left post by inches.
It was part of a 12-shot second period for Messiah.
“What we didn’t do a good enough job of was putting those shots on goal,” McCarty said. “We had no trouble creating scoring opportunities. We just weren’t very efficient with those chances.”
As the clock wound and overtime appeared imminent, Messiah continued to press for the game winner. With just over five minutes to play in regulation, LVC got the opportunity it needed.
A long clear somehow got past charging junior defender Josh Mull, and a Dutchmen forward turned on it. Now giving chase, Mull came up over the back of the player, resulting in a foul — and Messiah’s third yellow card of the afternoon — with just 5:11 to play.
LVC forward George Andriko took the free kick from nearly dead center, 25 yards out and laced a beauty over Messiah’s wall of defenders. Curving to the left, Andriko’s shot landed in the upper 90, setting off a wild celebration that seemed to transcend stands from playing surface.
“Even after we scored our goal, I was confident that the second goal was coming,” McCarty said. “Their second goal was the back breaker, though. To try to manufacture a goal with just five minutes to play is tough.”
Messiah — ranked fifth in the latest NSCAA/Adidas Top 25 Poll — would not record an attempt in those final five minutes, as LVC had knocked off its highest-rated opponent in program history.
The Falcons finished the night with 10 of its 20 shots on frame, led by Lee’s two. Junior Jared Clugston finished with three saves in goal, while Messiah was whistled for 14 fouls and a season-high three yellow cards.
“They (the cards) were all deserved,” McCarty said. “We were pressing the entire game, credit LVC for being dangerous in counter-attack. We got caught behind on occasion and fouled.”
Messiah will attempt to turn the tide back in its favor Saturday, as the team hosts conference opponent Lycoming College as part of Homecoming Weekend festivities. Game time is set for 6 p.m. at Shoemaker Field.
“We’ve got to work really hard and battle to find a result,” McCarty said. “We’ve got to play better on both sides of the ball.”