Messiah Completes Undefeated Commonwealth Regular Season
Ben Bovenzi, contributor
The Falcons defeated Alvernia University 3-1 (25-17, 25-12, 17-25, 25-16) to complete a perfect 7-0 regular season in the Commonwealth for 2011. It is the first undefeated conference regular season in the program's history.
"We were very focused on (winning) the conference from the beginning," said Messiah head coach Judi Tobias, in her 16th year coaching the Falcons. "It wasn't a hard sell to our team. It's been one of our goals from the start. We just kept getting better, getting stronger, and then the reality of being undefeated became more apparent."
Tobias praised her squad's determination and heart, which she believes has led to the Falcons' great play.
"We have players with a drive to win, players who are very competitive," noted Tobias. "Not that we haven't had such players before, but we've never head a core group like this one that is so solid and so competitive. These players having been starting for us for one or two years now, and the work they've put into their training, in the weight room, in the off-season when nobody is watching- that is what has allowed us to get to this point. They're truly committed."
As a team, Messiah boasts statistical standouts such as junior Lauren Reese (9 kills, 19 digs vs. Alvernia), senior Megan Wise (19 digs), and sophomore Jess Geib (31 assists). Yet for Tobias, the true measure of this team's excellent play is the balanced play of the entire roster- with players "stepping up" when they'e needed most.
"Our leaders have stepped at different times," said Tobias. "Megan Wise stepped up against E-Town, (senior) Brittany Salloum has stepped up at different times. Lauren Rees, (junior) Lindsay King, (seniors) Emily Hall and Lauren Lathrop- they all love their roles on this team and they've been stepped up when we've needed them. They're working hard in practice, they're not slacking off, not giving up. They're going after it, and they're going hard."
Rees, who leads the Commonwealth in kills (305), expressed her pride for being a member of such a spirited team.
"It's definitely is an honor being a part of this team," said the junior, a First Team All-Commonwealth player last season. "This is a big accomplishment for our team. We’ve been working at this for a long time, and it feels good to accomplish what you want to work for. It’s really cool to be a part of history- the program has been here for a while, so to be a part of the team that has done something a team here has never done is a very big opportunity for us and I’m very honored to be a part of it."
The Falcons will play this weekend in the Messiah Invitational. The team will host Catholic University on Friday evening (5:00 p.m.), followed by a trio of opponents on Saturday that include Roanoke College (10:00 a.m.), FDU-Florham (12:30 p.m.), and PSU-Harrisburg (2:30 p.m.). All matches this weeekend will be played in Hitchcock Arena.
Next week, for the first time in program history, the Falcons will enter the Commonwealth Championships as the #1 seed. They will play host in the semifinal round on Wednesday, November 2.
For the team, the history lessons aren't all that important; rather, it's the work yet to be done.
"We love this sport," said Rees. "We go hard, and we have a lot of passion. A good team is one that works hard all the time, even when things get tough. We've really improved in that area this year. Hopefully we can continue to translate the hard work into more wins for our school and for the God we play for."