Messiah's top-three scorers assist in defeat of Emory to advance
GRANTHAM, Pa. -- Messiah received a single goal from each of their top-three scorers on Sunday, as the Falcons defeated Emory in the second round of the NCAA championship.
On Sunday, sophomore Jack Thompson put Messiah on top in the 9th minute of the game after slicing in a left-footed strike from 25 yards out on the left side of midfield. Thompson's score came off an assist from Luke Helmuth, with the senior defender redirecting possession to Thompson off a Messiah corner.
“Coach talked with us about needing a moment of quality on the field,” Thompson said of his goal, the result his two-touch play on the ball. “I was focused on keeping the ball down and getting it on goal, and I was fortunate enough for it to go in.”
Sophomore Jeremy Payne—the Commonwealth Player of the Year—doubled the Falcons' lead in the 24th minute after being flicked a ball to the left side of the box from junior Joshua Wood. Payne ran off of Wood's flick after feeding his teammate at the top of the 18-yard line.
Payne's score may have been especially tough for Emory to handle, as the Eagles were turned away from a game-tying opportunity just moments before. On the play, junior Andrew Johnson was played down the right side of the field against the run of play. After pushing through the right corner of the Falcons' penalty box, Johnson placed a hard shot on the ground towards the left post of the goal. Sophomore keeper Brandon West managed to just tip the shot on his dive, however, keeping the Eagles scoreless.
Payne's score just moments later put Messiah on top 2-0, a lead they would carry through the intermission. The Falcons' two scores came on just four shots in the first half, while Emory was kept scoreless on three shots.
Less than five minutes into second half, Payne and Wood connected once more, this time with Payne finding Wood on a run into the left side of the box. His slotted ball was touched forward once by Wood before the junior sent his score into the right side of the goal.
Down 3-0 at this point, the Eagles continued to scrap in hopes of closing their deficit. In the 66th minute, Johnson again came close for the visitors, as he and West came together near the middle of the 18-yard line in attempts to corral a bounding ball. Johnson did manage to get a shot off, but West's tackle saved the attempt as the Falcons regained possession.
The shot would not be the last for Emory, as senior Andrew Natalino twice came close to collecting a goal in the final 20 minutes. His best chance came in the 74th minute, as a loose ball near the Falcons' goal came to his feet for a shot from just five yards out. But his shot went directly into the arms of West for one of the keeper's four saves on the day.
“We knew they had some good players up front,” Helmuth said of the Falcons' defensive approach. “Our goal was to beat them to the ball. We're confident in each other, and we were focused on winning any ball that came to us.”
The win for Messiah comes almost one year to the day after Neumann shocked the Falcons in the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament. That loss ended the Falcons' run of three-consecutive national championships.
“We didn't want [last year] to be a big issue,” Messiah head coach Brad McCarty said. “This win gets a little monkey off our back, but we really just talked about being a team that can play well in the postseason.
“I thought out guys played really, really well [Sunday]—especially in the first half.”
The loss ends Emory's season at 11-7-2. The Eagles earned a 4-1 win against Roanoke in the first round on Thursday, their first win in regulation in the NCAA postseason since 1988.
“Messiah is a very good team,” Emory head coach Sonny Travis said. “They're a quality team, and they deserved to win [Sunday].
“Hopefully this is a good experience for our program.”