Geneva, NY – The Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Cubs, and now, finally, the Messiah field hockey program. It's been a good year to break a curse.
No. 1 Messiah College played through freezing temperatures, wind, and snow against No. 3 Tufts University in the NCAA Division III National Championship on Sunday, and they came away with a 1-0 decision in penalty strokes that will go down as one of the best games in Division III field hockey history. The win for Messiah secured their first-ever field hockey championship after they previously finished as National Runner-Up on eight separate occasions.
"I'm very proud of this team and their effort, they really laid it all on the line," Messiah head coach Brooke Good said. "We talked before the game about facing adversity, and the conditions today were a part of that, and it took us well beyond 70 minutes to do it.
"But this is really special, to be able to say we won the first National Championship, and that it came at the very last possible moment."
That last moment came in the penalty stroke shootout after the teams battled for 70 minutes of regulation and another 30 minutes of overtime without either team getting a goal. In the shootout Messiah keeper Shelby Landes came up with a diving stop on the Jumbos' Dominique Zarrella to start things off, and Carissa Gehman followed with a sweeping goal to put the Falcons up 1-0. After a missed attempt by Tufts' second shooter, Shayna Landis beat keeper Emily Polinski to the right side for a 2-0 lead.
Messiah's 2-0 lead held until the fourth round when Fallon Shaughnessy scored one for Tufts and Polinski denied Kezia Loht. That brought up Tufts' fifth-and-final shooter, Annie Artz, and she had her attempt kicked away by Landes to secure the Falcons' win.
Every Messiah player and coach hesitated to celebrate for a few seconds as they looked to the official to confirm the decision. As the official finally did so, the Falcons raced in to celebrate the program's milestone victory.
"Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm rule-follower," Good said with a laugh. "Our players knew that they needed to stay back behind the line until we got the go-ahead. We knew mathematically that it was over, but everyone looked at me with such anticipation. It almost makes it even sweeter, that we all realized we wanted to do it only when we knew for certain that it was ours."