Nov. 22, 2009

By Bob Birge
Special to

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. – With a veteran-laden team that featured five seniors who had started since their freshman season, this was going to be the year that Messiah finally brought home the school’s first field hockey national championship.

But once again, it did not happen. Once again, the Falcons’ season ended in bitter disappointment.

Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Salisbury extended Messiah’s run of futility in the title game of the Division III tournament. The Falcons have appeared in seven finals, and lost every one of them.

And this defeat was as painful as any of the previous six championship game losses.

“It really hurts,” said Jan Trapp, who has won 503 games in her 37 seasons as Messiah coach but no titles. “That’s all I can say.”

Three years ago, Messiah’s current seniors also reached the finals as freshman, losing, 3-2, to Ursinus. They were hoping to end their careers as champions.

“It’s a heart breaker, that’s for sure,” Messiah senior forward Katie Love said.  “I know as a senior class we were looking to come full circle, but, honestly, we always talk about the relationships. Some of my best friends in the world are on this team.”

Ashley Mowery, the Falcons’ senior goaltender, struggled to fight back tears during the post-game news conference.

“It’s frustrating, it really is, to come out so strong and stay strong and just come up short in this game,  but it’s been a great four years at Messiah,” Mowery said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I learned a lot. As Katie said, I have some great friends on this team and I made some pretty good memories.”

With their championship game history perhaps weighing on them, the Falcons appeared to come out nervous, however. They surrendered three penalty corners in the first 10 minutes, and allowed Salisbury’s Caitlin Walker to score just 3 minutes, 30 seconds into the contest.

The Falcons never recovered.

Messiah scored three goals in a 3-2 overtime victory over Salisbury early in the regular season, but generated little offense Sunday, especially in the second half when they managed only two shots.

“I don’t think they played us differently,” Trapp said. “I think we played differently. I thought we were loose coming into the game but I don’t think we played like we were loose.”

Prior to the start of the NCAA tournament, Trapp won the 500th game of her career. She is one of only four NCAA field hockey coaches (all divisions) to reach that milestone, but that will provide little consolation as she deals with the sting of another championship game defeat.

At least she got a measure of sympathy from her counterpart Sunday.  Trapp and Salisbury coach Dawn Chamberlain are close friends.

“Do I feel bad? – yeah, I do,” Chamberlain said. “She’s been here numerous times. I would like to see her win a national championship, but not when we’re in the national title game.”

Still, at 64 years old, Trapp might be wondering how many more chances she will get.