Messiah looks to defend title, but three other teams may hinder that hope
SAN ANTONIO -- The Messiah Falcons enter Friday's NCAA Division III Men's Soccer national semifinals as the defending champions.
Messiah (20-1-1) has captured nine NCAA championships since 2000, and three in the past four years. The Falcons have won the past three in San Antonio, but at Blossom Soccer Stadium.
This year, the semifinals and final will be played at the 8,000-seat Toyota Field, the home of the North American Soccer League San Antonio Scorpions. Trinity and San Antonio Sports are co-hosting the event - for men and women -for the fifth consecutive year.
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The Loras Duhawks (22-0-2) meet the Rutgers-Camden Scarlet Raptors (22-0-2) in the opening semifinal at 5 p.m. The semifinal winners will vie for the national championship at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Messiah is competing in its 25th NCAA tournament, and 14th national semifinal since 1986.
Falcons head coach Brad McCarty has been at the helm of Messiah since 2009, and is the owner of three national championships.
"It's always a process and a journey," McCarty said, who served as the top assistant coach for eight years before taking over the program. "You look back, and we lost our conference semifinal in PKs [to Lycoming]. We were off for 10 days, and that enabled us to be focused.
"Our front six are dynamic. They all have the ability to score, and create chances for themselves and others. That is something that is unique, even for Messiah, to have all six guys be relevant in the attack."
Messiah, which received an at-large bid, defeated Franklin and Marshall 4-1 in the quarterfinals. Last year, the Falcons beat Loras 1-0 in the semifinals, and Ohio Northern 5-1 in the championship tilt.
Williams, which defeated Amherst 1-0 in the quarterfinals, is making its second consecutive appearance in the semifinals, and its third in the last five years. Ohio Northern edged Williams 3-2 in the 2012 semifinal round.
Loras beat Trinity 2-1 in the quarterfinals, and the Duhawks will compete in the semifinals for the fourth time in the last seven years.
Rutgers-Camden, which took out Montclair State 2-1, will compete in the semifinals for the first time. But the Scarlet Raptors are sporting a 36-game unbeaten streak.