Messiah Scores Game's Only Goal, Moves To NCAA Quarterfinal
Grantham, PA – Messiah senior Lisa Wingard broke a scoreless tie in Saturday's NCAA Third Round match-up with SUNY New Paltz, striking a game winning goal past Hawks' keeper Stephanie Vega in the 72nd minute of play.
Wingard scored the game's lone goal after attacking from 40 yards out down the right side of the open field, cutting into the box to go one on one with Vega. With the Hawks' defense closing in from the left side, Wingard's shot went over the right shoulder of Vega and into the far, left corner of the net.
"I was able to get some good touches," said Wingard of her attack down the field. "It all happened really quickly."
Wingard scored the goal off an assist from junior Rachel Scheibeler, who delivered the pass to her teammate from the middle of the field.
"(Vega) was a great keeper," said Wingard. "She made it really hard for us to get the ball into the net, and denied most of our opportunities. She was amazing."
Vega, the Hawks' junior keeper who had allowed only one goal through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, made 14 saves on the day- many of them with dives to either side and quick reactions at the top of the net.
Indeed, it was the play of Vega and the New Paltz defense that kept the game scoreless for so long. Messiah had a number of scoring chances early, taking 12 shots in the first half.
In the 13th minute of play, Messiah senior Erin Hench cut into the box from the left side to strike a low liner to the far right post. Vega, quick on her feet throughout the game, made a diving save to her left.
Just six minutes later, Vega would make another diving save- this one after junior Alex Brandt launched a shot from the right corner of the 18 yard line.
Undeterred, the Falcons continued their attack. They almost found their first score with under 30 seconds remaining in the first half. A Messiah corner was lofted to the far, right post of the goal where senior Liz Phillips put her head on the ball for a shot toward the right corner. The attempt would be turned away by Vega, deflecting the ball before it was cleared by her defense.
"(Vega) did a really good job today," said Messiah head coach Scott Frey, whose Falcons advance to the Quarterfinals on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. "Their defense kept three or four girls in front of the ball at all times, making it even harder to great shots past their keeper."
In the second half, the Falcons would continue to pound the Hawks' defense, looking for the one goal they would need.
In the 52nd minute, they almost found their score, as Scheibeler played a perfect cross from the right side into the box. Hench lept for a header to the near post, with Vega extending her arm to punch the ball over the net for the save.
With the Falcons continuing their assault-- taking 13 shots in the second half, Wingard would deliver the game winner inthe 72nd minute.
"We had our chances, but finally made one stick when Schiebeler played that ball to Wingard," said Frey. "It started with us getting good touches and playing quick. We attacked with good width, and we were able to expose them from the outside."
With a 1-0 lead after Wingard's score, Messiah sophomore Alicia Frey almost extended the lead with just under 9:00 to play. Her low strike from the top of the 18 yard line went towards the right post, with Vega making another diving save to keep the score unchanged.
"Vega has been great all year for us," said Hawks' head coach Colleen Bruley. "She's made some unbelievable saves for us this year and in the tournament."
With time quickly expiring, SUNY New Paltz almost found the one score they needed. With just over 2:00 remaining, their only corner kick of the game was lofted into the box where, after being redirected from a pack of players, Messiah keeper Autumn Reilly and defender Liz Phillips combined to clear it from the box.
"Even that that point in the game, our girls believed we could do something," said Bruley, whose team advanced to the Third Round in their first-ever NCAA Championships appearance. "Our girls came in here with confidence and it was an incredible experience for them."
With the loss, the Hawks drop to 14-6-3.
"We had a lot of players step up and do a number of different things," said Frey, reflecting on his team's willingness to find what it takes to win close games in the NCAA Championships. "Scheibeler played great today, as did (senior) Olivia Scott and (junior) Annie Trapp. And Autumn made the one save you need in a game like this."
"We have a team made up of leaders," added Hench, one of the Falcons' many dynamic offensive players. "Everyone has different personalities and roles, and we support each other in a special way. It's a unique strength of our team."
With the win, Messiah moves to 20-0-1, and will take on the winner of Johns Hopkins-Amherst on Sunday. The Falcons will be looking to advance to their eighth Final 4.
Update: The Falcons will take on Amherst College on Sunday, as the Lord Jeffs defeated the Blue Jays 2-0.