Nov. 15, 2009

Grantham, PA -- When Messiah head coach Scott Frey said his team was excited to begin NCAA Tournament competition, it's now clear he wasn't being facetious.

Messiah scored just 99 seconds into its NCAA Championships First Round contest Saturday night against Farmingdale State University, tacking on another goal six minutes later to help cruise to a 6-1 win over the Rams -- the program's 14th straight win this season and sixth consecutive in NCAA Tournament play.

Only a late folly in the backfield spoiled an otherwise flawless evening of soccer for the host Falcons, as Farmingdale State snuck in a goal with just over 20 minutes remaining, putting the kibosh on what would have been Messiah's seventh straight shutout on the year.

"That (Farmingdale State's goal) just shows you that every (NCAA Tournament) team can play when given an opportunity," Frey said. "We made a mistake, and it cost us. At this point in the year, you can't let down."

Messiah's lone `let down' was an exception to the general rule Saturday at Shoemaker Field, as a dominant possession game kept things from getting remotely close. Senior Amy Horst began the onslaught with only 1:39 elapsed on the game clock, scoring her sixth goal of the season following a deflected ball in front of the Rams' cage.

Freshman Corinne Wulf got in on the right flank and sent a beauty of a cross to senior Amanda Naeher, but Naeher got entangled with a Farmingdale State defender upon trying to receive the pass.

The ball then squirted out to Horst -- who was pinching in from her left winger position -- and the Leola, Pa. native knew what to do: Taking a touch to get a clean look, Horst rifled a right-footed blast from seven yards away, center cut, beating Farmingdale State starting goalkeeper Stacey Rao with pure force.

It was certainly not the start that FSU was accustomed to, as the Rams entered the contest outscoring their opponents by a 69-14 margin on the year.

Messiah (20-0-1) would only pile on from there, however.

The Falcons recorded arguably the most technically sound goal of the night with 7:38 elapsed, as a gorgeous combination inside the Rams' 18-yard box resulted in junior Joanna Haqq's ninth goal of the year.

After junior Erin Hench collected the ball just outside the 18, she played a nifty one-two ball to Naeher. Naeher, in turn, played a nearly identical one-two ball to Haqq, who took a touch before finishing from 10 yards out to the near post.

That goal even got a verbal rise out of the normally stoic Frey, as it was clear Messiah was rolling.

"Our second goal was a joy to watch," he said. "It was a very nice combination off the type of stuff we work on every day."

Naeher helped make it a 3-0 Falcons' lead at the break, as the senior fired a left-footed laser into the back of the net following a Messiah corner kick that FSU failed to clear at the 19:44 mark.

Following a scoreless 42-minute run of play encompassing halftime, Naeher helped spark a two-goal in two-minute spurt that effectively put the game away for good. With 62:05 elapsed, Naeher ripped another left-footed blast into the back of the frame, this time taking a feed from classmate Katlyn Musser before going top shelf, far post from the left side.

Wulf then notched her 10th goal of the year at the 63:54 mark, winning a 50-50 ball on the left sideline before dribbling some 40 yards, carrying a pair of Rams' defenders with her.

Wulf finished strong to the far post just yards off the endline, beating new FSU keeper Amanda Maass, making it a 4-0 affair.

Farmingdale State (15-5-3) was able to break through the Messiah back line five minutes later, as the Rams' Jamie Smith finished a 12-yard shot to the far post at the 68:21 mark. A rare snafu in the Falcons' backfield left Smith in a one-on-one opportunity with sophomore goalkeeper Autumn Reilly, and the Farmingdale State forward finished for her 12th score of the season.

Perhaps as a statement, Messiah tacked on its final score just 17 seconds following Smith's shutout-buster.

Frey's club began attacking the Rams' defense following the restart, pressing into the FSU 18-yard box almost instantaneously.

Amid a congested area, the ball popped out to a Farmingdale State defender, who quickly tried to clear the ball with a sturdy kick.

That effort caromed off the thigh of sophomore Rachel Loya and into the back of the FSU net with the force of a well-struck shot, however, and the final 6-1 spread was accounted for.

Messiah finished with a 19-5 advantage in total shots and a 12-3 disparity in shots on goal. Farmingdale State came up with its second-best chance to score just 10 minutes after halftime, but Reilly made a great leaping save off a shot from the Rams' Theresea Martorano, going skyward to tip a curling ball over the crossbar.

It was one of two saves on the night for Reilly.

Frey, meanwhile, picked up his 200th career win as the Falcons' 10-year leader, improving his remarkable win-loss record to 200-12-11. Afterward, the always humble Frey preferred talk of his team's win over that of his own accomplishments.

"I'm still 300 wins behind (Messiah field hockey head coach) Jan Trapp," Frey joked. "In all honesty, (the 200 wins) are just a testament to the great players we've been blessed with over the last 10 years here. I've got a great staff and we've had young women who have played as one."

Messiah will now face Endicott College Sunday evening at 6 p.m., for the right to continue on to next weekend's sectional round. Endicott (17-4-1) advanced via a 1-1, double-overtime tie over SUNY Geneseo (14-4-3) in the Saturday's late First Round game at Shoemaker Field. The Gulls claimed a 6-5 penalty-kick decision following 110 minutes of soccer which ended in a deadlock.

"Endicott showed a lot of heart in their game against Geneseo," Frey said. "We'll have to play as well or better than we played tonight, that is for sure."