Messiah College Undefeated and No. 1
Its no surprise that the mens and womens soccer teams at Messiah College are having successful seasons, but the fact that both programs are undefeated as they enter the NCAA Championships is a little more unusual.
The programs " both ranked No. 1 in the nation -- are headed by former Messiah teammates and long-time friends Dave Brandt and Scott Frey. The pair played for the Falcons mens squad in 1981-84 and led the team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1982, followed by a second trip in 1983.
Brandt took over the mens team in 1997, guiding the Falcons to a 177-20-9 mark and three NCAA Championships (2000, 02, and 04) in nine seasons, including a perfect 19-0 record this year. He is the winningest active coach in Division III mens soccer and his teams have advanced to the NCAA Championship every season with him at the helm.
We only lost two players to graduation from last years team, said Brandt. I think last years championship was a little unexpected. We knew we were good, but Im not sure we thought we could win it all last year. With that confidence, and another year of growth, and not losing much, we expected to really be in contention again this year.
Frey served as an assistant coach for the mens team from 1988-92, and returned to Grantham, Pa., to take the reigns of the Messiah womens program in 2001. He has led the women to the Commonwealth Conference title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in each of his five seasons. The Falcons have advanced to the NCAA semifinals in 2002 and 2004, and with an 18-0 record this season are looking for their first national championship.
We didnt graduate any players last year, so we have another year of experience, said Frey. The young players coming along since last year and the maturing of the freshmen have really helped us improve since last year. We had a great group of core players coming back from last years run.
While success in a single sport in both mens and womens competition is not uncommon, the Falcons level of achievement is truly incredible with a 198-13-9 combined overall record over the last five years.
I think both programs have done a really good job over the years of recruiting the right type of person for the program, said Brandt. I think thats critical for any program at any level.
Frey credits the mens team for paving the way for womens squad as a perennial power. The men have been a fixture on the national scene for many years and are making their 17th trip to the NCAA Championship this season, while the women first advanced to the national tournament in 2000 and are preparing for their sixth straight appearance.
I think it (the mens program) has shown the womens team that it can be done and the amount of work it takes to be successful. I think without a doubt the mens team has given a great example.
Another reason for Messiahs incredible run is the friendly relationship between the head coaches and their sharing of ideas.
While we each do our own thing in our own programs, we talk all the time about recruiting, about program philosophy, about tactics -- just about everything, said Brandt.
Messiahs mens and womens teams received byes in the first round of the NCAA Championship and will host second round games on Sun., Nov. 12. The men will play the winner of Muhlenburg College and Wesleyan University, while the women will face the winner of Haverford College and Arcadia University.