Thompson's Late Goal Lifts Falcons Past Alvernia In Thriller
Grantham, PA - A battle of the top two teams in the Commonwealth Conference did not disappoint the thousand fans in attendance on Saturday night. For the Falcon faithful, it was especially rewarding.
Senior Danny Thompson broke a scoreless tie in the 82nd minute of play as the Falcons remained undefeated in the Commonwealth in moving to 6-0. Alvernia dropped to 5-1 in the conference.
"I don't think we were any different (in this game) with our desire to win," said Messiah head coach Brad McCarty. "We just wanted to make them think, and work, for 90 minutes. It's a testament to our focus and depth."
Focus and depth were certainly on display for Messiah on Saturday, as the team kept relentless pressure on the Crusader defense. The Falcons took 30 shots to Alvernia's seven, with a dozen opportunities to score missing by only a hair.
Crusader keeper Ben Diller, the Commonwealth's leader in shutouts (7) coming into the night, made seven saves on the night, consistently thwarting Messiah's imposing offensive assault. In the 82nd minute, Danny Thompson finally drilled a shot that Diller could not deflect.
Thompson received the ball in the middle of the field from senior teammate Sam Woodworth. With the defense collapsing around him, as they had done all night, the senior cut left and then quickly back to his right before striking a laser from just outside the 18. The ball sailed on the ground to the lower, left corner and past a diving Diller for the game winner.
For Thompson, it was goal number fourteen on the season, good for first place in the Commonwealth.
For Alvernia (12-3-1, 5-1), it would be a goal that gave them their first Commonwealth loss. It may sting a bit more, too, considering a missed opportunity in the first half: a penalty kick attempt on Falcon keeper Jake Berry.
A hand ball-deflection by the Falcons led to Crusader's shot at an early lead midway through the first frame. Freshman David McEwen, the team's leading goal scorer, drilled a shot off the right post, with the ricochet coming directly back to him. His illegal play on the rebound gave the Falcons possession, with the missed opportunity foreshadowing an empty feeling for a Crusader team that proved their among the elite in the league.
"Heading into tonight, we knew that Alvernia was talented," said McCarty, as his Falcons moved to 15-0-1 overall. "They're a deep team, they attack well, and they play a good style."
The Crusader attack was certainly on display as well, though the Messiah defense consistently met the challenge of an Alvernia team that boasted three of the top-10 goal scorers in the Commonwealth. Keeper Jake Berry made four saves on the night, with a defensive unit making things difficult for the Alvernia assault.
"I thought we struggeld a bit defensively in the first half," reflected McCarty. "We had a hard time handling their pressure, and we talked about it at halftime. Our backs handled their forward runs much better (in the second half), and it was the difference for us."
Messiah now looks forward to their final Commonwealth match up of the season, their annual game with Elizabethtown College. The rivalry game is set to be played at E-Town on Saturday, October 29, at 4:30 p.m. It will follow the women's game scheduled for 2:00 p.m.