Messiah makes it to semifinals for ninth season in a row with 3-0 win
GRANTHAM, Pa. – Senior Alex Brandt scored two goals and delivered an assist on Sunday, leading her team to both a 3-0 win against Johns Hopkins and a trip to the NCAA semifinals. Messiah's trip to the national semifinal is their ninth consecutive, as they are looking to defend their Division III championship from a year ago.
“Alex was special [Sunday], to say the least,” head coach Scott Frey said of Brandt, who leads the team with 17 goals and 13 assists. “She had a phenomenal night.”
Brandt's two goals came in during a seven-minute span of the second half, starting in the 58th minute. The game-winning score came off an assist from freshman Nikki Elsaesser, with Elsaesser serving a cross from the right end line to Brandt on her near-post run.
The goal not only put Messiah ahead, it also seemed to break the tension built up on the field; the Falcons had been turned away on multiple scoring opportunities earlier in the game, with Brandt finally breaking through for the hosts.
To the point, senior Rachel Scheibeler almost added a goal less than two minutes later, with her shot from the left side hitting off the crossbar. The ricochet bounded out to Brandt in the midfield, with her shot from 23 yards out saved on the dive by keeper Meredith Maguire.
Nevertheless, just seven minutes after her first score, Brandt added her second goal— this time off a feed from freshman Trisha Tshudy. Slotted a ball across the midfield from Tshudy, Brandt penetrated to the right side of the 18-yard line before rocketing a shot to the right side of the goal.
Now in control 2-0, Brandt connected with Elsaesser in the 83rd minute for her fifth point of the night. Her pass went through the midfield and underneath the Blue Jays defense, with Elsaesser continuing her run into the box. With Maguire coming off her line for the save, Elsaesser fired a shot over the keeper for the exclamation point.
The 3-0 win for Messiah would probably surprise anyone who watched only the first 45 minutes of play. Though the Falcons outshot Johns Hopkins 9-0 in the first half, the two teams were battling hard—certainly enough that a three-goal explosion would be unexpected. But for Messiah, the result was simply the product of a commitment to their game plan.
“Across the board, we were very good [Sunday],” Frey said. “Nikki, she's going to be a good player, and she's already come a long way this year. Trisha, Emily [Schneider], and, well, everyone played well.
“Our players put together one of the best games of the season, and that's what you want at this time of the year.”
The loss ends the Blue Jays' season at 18-5-1, with two of their losses coming to Messiah. It is the third time in four years that Johns Hopkins has had their season ended by the Falcons in the sectional semifinal.
“They were solid, but we didn't give them too many chances,” Frey said of the Blue Jays. “They had a moment or two to score, but our girls stepped up to make the necessary plays.”
With the win, Messiah moves to 22-1-1 as they advance to their ninth-consecutive NCAA semifinals. Champions in 2011, the Falcons are looking for their fourth national title in the past five years.