Nov. 13, 2010

 

 


 

Courtesy of Messiah Athletics

Grantham, PA -- If Saturday's initial NCAA Second Round contest was any indication, Messiah is more than comfortable facing an opponent that has dealt the team a recent defeat.

And if Saturday's late NCAA Second Round contest was any indication, that characteristic is very, very important for the Falcons.

Messiah thumped Lynchburg College by a 7-0 score Saturday morning at Anderson Field, avenging a 2-1, overtime loss to the Hornets early in the season. Just hours following the Falcons' emphatic win, however, Salisbury University trumped Rhodes College by the same score.

The end product: A re-match of the 2009 NCAA Division III National Championship game Sunday at Anderson Field, with the right to advance to the 2010 NCAA National Semi-Finals on the line.

"I think we're looking forward to it," said Jan Trapp, Messiah head coach. "Our girls are approaching this tournament as, `We'll take all comers.' They really look at playing a team that we've already played with great anticipation."

Such a mindset was more than evident early at Anderson Field Saturday, as Messiah (17-2) stepped on the proverbial gas pedal and did not let up. After proving inefficient with just a singular goal in 24 shots against the Hornets in its regular-season defeat Sept. 22, the Falcons more than made up for those numbers Saturday, pushing seven scores across on just 21 attempts.

The run of play was clearly in the hosts' favor from the outset, as Messiah -- ranked atop the final Kookaburra/NFHCA Top 20 Coaches Poll -- recorded five penalty corners and six shots in just over 15 minutes worth of play.

The goals started mounting just moments later, when senior Julie Barton took a slotted pass from classmate Amber (Philpot) Good on the right side, and beat Lynchburg junior goalkeeper Tiffany Frye with a hard, low shot to the far post.

Messiah tacked on its second score at the 31:31 mark, after senior Kourtney Ehly got behind the Hornets' defense on the right side and sent a cross into the goal mouth, causing a frantic scrum. Sophomore Juliana Hershey was in the right place at the right time, flipping the ball into the back of the cage with Frye prone on the ground.

If halftime provided any solace for Lynchburg (19-4), it was only in delaying the inevitable.

The Falcons knocked in three more scores in the second period's opening 10 minutes, with Hershey scoring the first and Ehly the next two. Ehly made the first tally of the second half possible, intercepting a potential Lynchburg clear and flipping the ball backward to Hershey, who spun and flicked the ball into the cage before Frye could react.

The Boiling Springs, Pa. native then took matters into her own hands, finishing an unassisted tally at the 39:07 mark following Messiah's eighth penalty corner of the day. Less than five minutes later, it was Ehly scoring again -- coming off a spectacular build-up.

After Barton won a ball near the midfield stripe, she pushed it ahead to Ehly, who had space in front. Ehly took two touches before sending the ball to the right flank, finding freshman Brooke Sands.

Sands then carried the ball all the way to the end line before slinging it back across the face of the goal, where Ehly was charging at full speed. Ehly one-time Sands' offering to beat newly-inserted keeper Hannah Myers, and the Falcons were rolling.

Hershey completed her second career hat trick with just under 45 minutes elapsed while sophomore defender Natalie Ziegler notched her second goal of the season off a corner with 14 minutes to play, concluding the scoring.

Messiah had to combat a total 10 shots from the Hornets on the game, but nine of those came late in the second half, long after the game was out of reach. Freshman goalkeeper Kayleigh Stewart finished with five saves, but it was a defensive save from junior Lindsay Dale that preserved the Falcons' 12th shut out of the year: With less than three minutes to go, Lynchburg's Corrin Jasinski got in on the left side and lifted a gorgeous chip toward the far post, upper 90 -- a near certain score.

But Dale was standing on the line, ready, twitching her stick above her head at the last possible second to bat the ball out of the air.

"I was so nervous about this game," Trapp said afterward. "I've been really proud of our team, the way they've stepped up. I did not expect this. I kind of expected a couple goals, but seven goals on that board? No way would I expect that."

Trapp conceded that Saturday's production was, perhaps, a product of the team's gradual improvement over the course of the year. After losing eight starters off of last year's 22-1 team, a `quick fix' was not in store. Trapp said the team's 2-1 loss to Lynchburg at a neutral location in September was simply a part of the growing process.

"We looked back at that game from the beginning of the year, and we were so young of a team back then," Trapp said. "You've got to be able to trust your teammates. But when you lose so many seniors like we did, we're forced to believe in each other. (Assistant coach) Brooke (Good) has done a great job of fostering those relationships on defense, and it's carried over throughout the team. We're just playing a different type of game than what we were early in the year."

The Falcons can hope it's good enough to dethrone Salisbury (16-3), as the Sea Gulls will match-up with Messiah Sunday at 1 p.m. Salisbury ended the Falcons' push for their first national championship in last year's title game, winning by a 1-0 score.

Messiah already avenged that loss -- the Falcons beat the Sea Gulls by a 3-0 score back on Sept. 18 at Anderson Field -- but Trapp's club had beaten SU during the regular-season in 2009, too. Again, Messiah's pursuit of a national championship will go through Salisbury.

"For us, it's just like Lebanon Valley (College)," Trapp said, referring to the team's regular-season and Commonwealth Conference Championship wins over their currently second-ranked rivals. "We knew it was going to be tough (playing them a second time), but we came out even stronger. I hope that holds true for tomorrow."

Messiah and Salisbury will face off Sunday at 1 p.m. on Anderson Field. GoMessiah.com will be providing Twitter feed updates as the game progresses. Sign up to follow Messiah Athletics on Twitter to stay abreast on all the details.