Messiah Stifles E-Town To Win 2-0 In Regular Season Finale
Palmyra, PA - Eight inches of snow falling in late October, causing the delay of one of the best rivalries in NCAA Division III athletics? Yes, that was unexpected.
Messiah earning hard-fought victory over their foes from Elizabethtown? Seems like everything is back to normal.
The Falcons defeated Elizabethtown for the 20th time in their last 23 matches, holding the Blue Jays scoreless in a 2-0 win. The victory moved Messiah to 16-0-1 on the season, and completed their undefeated (7-0) campaign in the 2011 Commonwealth regular season.
The Falcons will now prepare for the semifinal round of the Commonwealth Championships, which start on Thursday, November 3. Messiah will play host to none other than Elizabethtown College in a 7:30 p.m. game on Shoemaker Field.
For a moment, however, the Falcons can feel good about their win tonight.
The game started with early attacks by both teams, with E-Town collecting two shots in the first ten minutes. The Falcons responded, however, by gaining control of possession- and momentum, on the emotional night. Nine shots would be launched by the Falcons in the first frame, with E-Town keeper Eric Carr keeping the visitors out of the net until the 34th minute of action.
In that minute, senior Trevor Lee would corrale possession in the midfield and attack into the Blue Jays' 18, slotting a pass to his right to freshman Jeremy Payne. The tall forward from Middleburg, Pa., would drive the ball along the baseline and launch a shot at eye-level of Carr. The keeper would deflect the ball only slightly, as the shot would land in the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
"I challenged our second group to be relevant tonight, to have an impact and get goal," said Messiah head coach Brad McCarty. "I thought the goal started with Lee attacking the middle and finding Jeremy. He's a big kid that is really starting to understand his position, and he put a good strike on the ball for the goal."
The goal, Payne's fifth on the season, was all that Messiah could muster in the first half even though they would control possession.
"We knew it was going to be difficult to connect passes and maintain possession," said McCarty, reflecting on the slightly-short field of In The Net, the turf field needed for the game. "I thought we did just that, and thankfully we were able to do enough damage."
The 1-0 lead would hold throughout the second half, with Messiah's Jake Berry tested only a few times in goal. E-Town's clearest shot would come from Cameron Wyllie, who put a strong strike on a ball from 30 yards out- directly into the chest of Berry.
While the defense was keeping E-Town off the board, the Falcons' offense continued to wear down their opposing backs. Carr was kept busy in the net, with Messiah connecting on 11 more shots in the second frame.
As the clock moved under 2:00, Messiah senior Derek Black found himself inside the right wing, attacking the goal on a quick switch from the left. Taking a few dribbles into the box, he launched a shot past Carr and into the net, setting off a celebration from the hundreds of Messiah fans in attandance.
The goal would complete the scoring, giving Messiah a 2-0 win.
"E-Town's (defensive) backs are very talented," said McCarty. "They play with a lot of depth and they also have dangerous wingers. We played well tonight to get this win."
Messiah will turn around in three days to play the Blue Jays again. The #1-seeded Falcons will host the game at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday. #2 Alvernia will host #3 Lebanon Valley in the other semifinal game.
With the regular seasoon now complete, McCarty was already thinking about the postseason tournament.
"Any of the four teams can win," reflected McCarty, head coach of a team looking for their fifth straight conference title. "They're a talented group of opponents, so we'll have to be prepared.