Nov. 15, 2010

Courtesy of Messiah Athletics

Glassboro, NJ — Throughout Sundays NCAA Second Round contest, it was clear that Rowan University was aware of Messiahs top-rated offense and two-time All-American senior Amanda Naeher.

But as the Profs did their best to limit Naeher and her nation-leading 31 goals, the Falcons dropped some knowledge on the hosts:

This Messiah team has quality depth.

With the effort of four different scorers, Messiah put Rowan back to the books and pushed themselves into next weekends NCAA Sectional round, wining by a 4-0 score on a sunny and warm November afternoon.

Action started early at Rowans soccer complex, as Messiah (21-0) strung together five consecutive passes in the opening seconds to push to Rowans back line. The final pass was a connection from sophomore Corinne Wulf to senior Joanna Haqq, but Haqqs ensuing shot missed the left post by inches.

The early build-up would have given Messiah a clear slated advantage from the get go, but Rowan (16-3-2) had other ideas.

As the hosts settled, game action became back and forth in nature, and Rowan gained possession in the attacking third through forward Jess Babice — a crafty and speedy player with the strong ability to pass or attack on her own.

One such push came in the 16th minute, where Babice carried the ball against junior defender Kelsey Gorman, trying to beat her one-on-one. But Gorman pushed Babice off her line and junior goalkeeper Autumn Reilly came surging to the edge of the 18-yard box, pouncing on the ball and ending the threat.

We knew coming in that (Babice) was a very talented player,” said Scott Frey, Messiah head coach. She has great pace with her play. She is a smooth and a dangerous player when she is around the ball. We had to keep her under special attention today. I thought the back line played fantastic.”

Strong play in Messiahs midfield created many chances for the Falcons to tack on the games inaugural goal, as Freys club would eventually conclude the first period with a 14-1 advantage in total shots. But with numerous attacking players locked up defensively by a steadfast Profs defense, Frey would call on senior and recent long-shot expert Molly Bletz to put his team ahead.

After Naeher was fouled just outside the Rowan 18-yard box in the 30th minute, Bletz came on for a free kick. With a six-person wall in front of her, Bletz used her strong left foot to bend her shot around the wall, just inside the left post for her third goal of the year at the 29:50 mark.

Quality chances seemed to be few and far between, however, as Messiah would enter the half by putting just two of its first 13 shots on frame.

That was, until 10 seconds remained.

It was then that junior Oliva Scott knocked in her third goal of the year, heading in a corner kick from sophomore Anne Trapp. With the clock ticking toward intermission, Scott rose up to head the ball down and past Rowan keeper Deana Wood, putting Messiah up 2-0 in stunning fashion.

We played well in the first half,” Frey said. We moved the ball well, we created good chances, and, obviously, getting the first goal is important. But the second (score) by the second group with 10 seconds left to play was a big moment for us. It gave us momentum and put (Rowan) in a tough spot to have to score two goals to get back into the game.”

With unexpected insurance, Messiah looked as if it would quickly put the game out of hand. However, Haqq missed a clear chance in the early minutes of the second half and Naeher had a long strike punched over the crossbar by Wood, keeping the spread at just two goals.

Perhaps sensing its season was on the line, Rowan went for broke, applying pressure to the Falcons for nearly 20 minutes of game time. From the 55th minute to the 75th minute, the Profs held the run of play, seemingly winning every ball and connecting on passes. Babice seemed to be at the middle of it all, sending crosses in from the wing and using her speed to beat Messiahs backline single handedly.

They didnt go away for sure,” Frey said on the Profs run. I thought the first couple of minutes, we created some chances, but then all of a sudden they had energy and we were a bit under pressure.”

At the height of it all, Rowan gained a 28-yard free kick on the left side of the field with 29:35 to play. The Profs swung the ball into the box and flicked a header to the far post, where junior Veronica Rhea headed the ball high — looking to beat Reilly under the crossbar.

But Reilly grabbed the ball out of the air on her way down to the ground and held onto it.

With half of Reillys body in the goal, Rhea had thought she scored. But Reilly stopped the ball from crossing the line and the center official continued play.

Autumn made a big stop in a big moment,” Frey said. We were reeling on their pressure but the backs did a good job clearing. Sometimes, you have to do that against a good team, especially in the NCAAs. Teams can play here and they will make runs like that. Sometimes you have to get defensive.”

At the end of Rowans 20-minute run, junior Leah Sipe put the game out of reach with just over 11 minutes to play.

After the Falcons gained a corner after a clear and counter, senior Katie Hoffsmith served a ball to the near post, finding Sipe in the air. Sipes header arched to the far post and into the goal for Messiahs third score at the 78:46 mark.

Freys club tacked on another just nine minutes later, as Wulf finished a feed from sophomore Rachel Scheibeler. Scheibeler gained possession on the right side after a failed clear by Rowan and served a low cross to Wulf, who directed her touch to the far post for the Columbus, Ohio natives 16th goal of the season.

Rachels strength is in her technical play and being a composed player,” Frey said. When things got frantic for us, when we were under pressure, it takes a player to be composed, to have a good touch and to be simple. Rachel did a really good job keeping the ball and at times, she can get very creative, finding a way to be dangerous. Im excited to see how she plays in the future because she did a great job all weekend and really settled us down today.”

Messiah finished the contest with a 22-6 lead in shots and a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks, but Frey said one of the most important aspects to the win was buried deeper in the stat sheet.

The big thing is this,” he said. To get two goals from two defensive midfielders and a back is great. Teams are going to try and take away what you do best, and girls have to step up. It is extremely important this time of year to have girls to step up. We did today.”

With the teams 19th shut out victory of the season, the Falcons advance to next weekends NCAA Sectional Semi-Finals, facing cross-town opponent Dickinson University, which beat Stevens Tech by a 5-1 score Sunday to move on. Back on Sept. 22, Messiah dropped six goals and gave up none to the Red Devils, lead by Naeher with three.

In reality, the last Dickinson game means nothing except they know us better than other teams,” Frey said. Theyve improved this season, and that is why they are here. We know that the score was not indicative of that game at all. They are talented up front with (Genevieve) Olson and well give her attention like we did (Babice) today.”

The NCAA will announce Sectional game sites and times Monday. Check back to GoMessiah.com for the latest information. Fans can also follow the NCAA Interactive Bracket for the latest news from across the Tournament.