SAN ANTONIO - For almost 180 minutes this season, the Messiah and William Smith found it impossible to score a goal against each other.

Brandt
MC

The trend continued in the first NCAA Division III national semifinal until Messiah junior midfielder Alex Brandt struck a shot into the upper right corner of the goal from 25 yards out to give Falcons a 1-0 victory in Blossom Stadium Friday afternoon.

Messiah, 23-0-1, advances to take on the winner of the Wheaton (Ill.)-Ithaca match in the Division III women's national title match Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.

On September 10, Messiah and William Smith played to a scoreless tie, and this match seemed destined for penalty kicks as the Herons defense turned away wave after wave of Messiah offensive attacks.

The back line of seniors Jessie Tarantino, Sarah Tarantino and Alyse DiCenzo were their usual solid selves and senior goalkeeper Amanda Davis made some stellar saves to keep her team in the match.

All of the hard work finally dented when Brandt struck from the middle of the field after receiving a pass from Rachel Scheibeler.

"We've seen William Smith two or three times the last several years," said Messiah Coach Scott Frey. "They know us well, and we know them well. Today's game was either going to take a mistake or a moment of brilliance. We got a moment of brilliance."

Brandt's 12th goal of the year definitely fit into that category.

"I wasn't sure if I should hit a one-timer or not," Brandt said. "I actually thought it was going over (the crossbar). But then I realized it went in."

It was only the third goal that William Smith had allowed all season. The Herons (20-1-1) registered 19 shutouts on the year.

Even though it took a perfect shot to beat Davis, who entered the match with a nation-leading 0.098 goals-against average, it was bitter for the senior goalkeeper to take. This is the third time in four years the Herons have lost to Messiah in the national semifinals.

Jessie Tarantino felt they were able to stifle Messiah's attacks with poise.

"They kept coming, but we weren't thinking, 'Here comes another wave,'" Tarantino said. "It was more like find your girl and do your job. It wasn't overwhelming. We were programmed into what we needed to do. We did a great job of defending as a team. (Brandt) hit a great shot."

Messiah, which defeated William Smith 4-0 in the 2010 national semifinals, came away impressed with their opponent.

"They are really good defensively," Scheibeler said. "We knew they would slide a lot and be really physical. We were aware of that and had to be patient and keep moving the ball."

This is the fourth straight time the Messiah seniors have reached the championship game.

"This group continues to try to look at each game individually," Frey said. "Over a period of time, we've been in four finals. I'm proud of them. We've had a lot of adversity this season. For this group to be where they are says a lot."