Sept. 5, 2010

Amanda Naeher continues to demonstrate why she is one of the best players in the country.

After scoring two goals Friday night in a 7-0 win over Christopher Newport University, the senior scored two more in a span of eight minutes to lead top-ranked Messiah past host Virginia Wesleyan College Saturday evening, 2-0.

But Naeher's success was anything but a solo effort. Instead, it was a harmonious fusion of Falcons, which head coach Scott Frey said starts in the back.

"(Virginia Wesleyan) came ready to play tonight," Messiah's 11th-year head coach said. "They had a plan on how to play us. They were well coached. They were very athletic. This team is going to be a very good team and go far on the year. They pressured us well and clogged up the middle."

But ...

"Our back line made very few mistakes," he continued. "They shut down any dangerous play. (Junior) Leah (Sipe) played so well in the midfield. The back five imparts confidence on the top five and the two groups work so well from there. Credit (Virginia Wesleyan) for playing us tough, but this back line once again showed how good they are."

After a dead-locked first half, Messiah's confidence generated an increased rate of play by the Falcons, forcing pressure on the Marlins.

And the denouement would be Naeher's goals, the first coming just eight minutes into the half. In the 53rd minute, Naeher, from the left side, served a spinning ball with her right foot, curving just off the back post and into the net.

"We had some quality chances before (the goal) but without results," Frey said. "We caught a break, but we continued to keep the pace high to get another one."

Just eight minutes later, at the 60:22 mark, senior Molly Bletz drove a cross into the box from the left side of the field. Naeher rose to the occasion -- literally -- scoring her fourth goal of the year on a header in the middle of the box.

"Mandy got the results, but everyone played so well," said Frey. "(Senior) Joey (Joanna Haqq) and (junior) Jess (Shirk) played a great game on the left side against some very athletic outside backs. (VWC) forced us to go wide and play one-on-one with the backs, but Jo and Jess made things easy for us to play wide."

As the clock ticked to zeros, the implications of the game became a reality. This tough Marlin team would be a tune up for a trip to regional rival Johns Hopkins University, ranked sixth in the NSCAA Pre-Season Top 25 -- and next up on the Messiah slate.

"The ability to beat a team like this will help us in the long run," Frey said. "Johns Hopkins is just as athletic Virginia Wesleyan and that allowed us to step up our tempo with purpose. We will continue to prepare at this rate of play, looking for a good result against a very good team."

Messiah will renew its rivalry with Hopkins Wednesday night. Frey said that contest will have ramifications on both squads.

"Both teams will look to compete not only in the conference, but in the region." Frey said. "We have gotten some good results in the past and we will look to continue our early season success."