Defense Strong As Falcons Down Blue Jays 3-0
Palmyra, PA – Coming into Monday’s highly anticipated match-up with Elizabethtown, the Falcons were eager to take the field.
Coming off the weekend’s snow-related postponement, the Messiah women’s soccer team hadn’t played a game in 9 days. Against Elizabethtown on Monday, the layoff didn’t show. The Falcons defeated the rival Blue Jays 3-0 at In The Net on Monday, completing a perfect 7-0 record in the Commonwealth regular season.
Playing on a neutral site turf, the two teams battled in a match-up that was postponed from Saturday because of a rare October blizzard. Though the temperatures remained low throughout Monday’s game, the Falcons’ offense kept the heat on their opposition by out shooting E-Town 19 to 4.
In the first half, the Falcons controlled possession throughout. A conservative approach from the Blue Jays kept the backfield packed with defenders, leaving little room for the Falcons to get close to the net. Nevertheless, the fundamentally sound and aggressive Messiah team found gaps and space, challenging keeper Jess Manchak on a number of occasions.
Manchak, aided especially by the strong play of fullback Amy Bunting, was able to thwart all of the Falcons’ attempt. That is, until the 10 minute mark.
At that time, Messiah senior Erin Hench lined up a 25 yard direct kick, delivering a solid strike on the right side of the goal. Manchak moved quickly to her left to capture the ball with two hands, or so she thought. The ball slipped through her hands and dribbled past the goal line, giving the Falcons a 1-0 lead.
“That first goal, we got fortunate,” said Messiah head coach Scott Frey. “But we’ll take it.”
“We knew they weren’t going to give us much space,” he added, commenting on the Blue Jays’ game plan. “The field is a little tight, it’s a fast surface, and they didn’t give us much space to work with.”
The 1-0 lead would prove enough for Messiah on the day, yet went on to score two more goals in the second half—both in a more traditional fashion.
Just over two minutes into the start of the second half, senior Leah Sipe sent a solid cross out of the right side to find classmate Olivia Scott, who sealed the deal in the upper right of the goal. Scott's goal gave the Falcons a comfortable 2-0 lead on the slightly-shorter turf at In The Net.
“To get an early goal in the second half, that was huge,” said Frey. “That gave us good separation and allowed us to settle in.”
With just under 2:00 left to play, Sipe would close out the scoring with a shot from eight yards out on the right side, a clean shot past Manchack who was recovering to her left. Junior Alex Brandt was credited with the assist after delivering the ball from the middle of the field.
With the 3-0 win, the Falcons improved to 15-0-1. Thirteen of the Falcons 16 games have come by way of the shut out, a testament to the solid defense of the Messiah team. In Monday’s win, the defense was in the spotlight once again, as the Blue Jays managed only four shots.
“Our back row just does not give much away,” said Frey. “A lot of it starts from the front, as our midfield and front line does a great job of winning balls. But the back row? Hats off to them for their great work.”
With the loss, Elizabethtown falls to 9-5-2, including 2-4-1 in the Commonwealth Conference. Depending on the results of the remaining games across the conference, their season may be over.
The Falcons will look forward to hosting the Commonwealth tournament as the #1 seed. The semifinals will open on Thursday, November 3, at Messiah College.
“I think we’re playing well,” reflected Frey, whose team is looking for their fifth straight Commonwealth Championship. “We’re hoping to make a good run this week and beyond.”