GRANTHAM, Pa. -- Brian Ramirez sent through a game-winner for the Falcons in the 89th minute and Messiah College overcame a scrappy, athletic Kenyon squad to win 2-1 and advance to the NCAA sectional finals. The Falcons will appear in the sectional final for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons; Kenyon finishes their season at 16-5-3.
Ramirez's goal came on the Falcons' 14th and final shot of the second-half and saved the Falcons from facing overtime—or perhaps penalty kicks—with the Lords. The goal also helped the Falcons put behind them a costly first-half mistake that led to the Lords' only goal.
That tally by Kenyon, scored by Nate Petrou in the 40th minute, came in unorthodox fashion as keeper Brandon West and his backline suffered a breakdown in communication. West raced off his line to the left side of the box in an attempt to gather possession; however, the Messiah backline intercepted the ball and then misplayed the clear to Petrou on the left side. His quick strike went on the ground to the open net and, in a surreal moment, tied the game. The Falcons stood in disbelief that the mistake was made while Kenyon celebrated the unexpected score.
The tally erased a 1-0 lead that Messiah had held from the early minutes. Sheldon Myer scored for the Falcons in just the third minute with a hard strike from 25 yards out in the midfield. His shot went off the far, right post and into the net. It was his fifth of the season.
Messiah controlled territory in those first few minutes, but Kenyon's strong play in the midfield soon created havoc. Most of the first-half was played end-to-end, with each team attempting five shots. The freezing winds also disrupted the teams' play, with combinations by either team at a minimum.
Messiah began the game playing into the wind and, though the wind was to their back after the half, they continued to struggle with possession in the second-half. As mentioned, they were able to generate 14 shots in the second-half, but just four of them went on frame. Kenyon even played as the aggressor for a long stretch of the frame, and came close to going ahead in the 73rd minute. Playing down the left side Petrou sent a low serve to the middle of the box where it bounced across the six-yard line. Bryant Myerslipped near the backside of the goal, which left Alex Chistoff with a shot off the bounce at West and the goal. But his shot sailed high, with him hanging his head in recognition of the missed opportunity.
Soon after Christoff's missed chance, Messiah began to reassert their attack. They controlled territory and displayed their usual brand of possession and nearly scored with eight minutes left. Jeremy Payne, now playing target for the Falcons, cut inside the left end line against the run of play and crossed past keeper Sam Clougher to the middle of the goal. Mike Kovach ran onto the ball but was tackled by his defender before the shot was taken. The ball bounced out to Jack Thompson 10 yards off the left post for a shot that appeared headed for the goal before it was blocked by defender Sam Justice on the goal line.
Justice's deflection, at the moment, saved the game for Kenyon.
Undeterred, and now pushing even harder to score in the final minutes, Messiah found the winner off the foot of Ramirez. He turned on possession in the midfield and turned down a shot from 25 yards out to move right for a closer attempt. Near the top of the penalty box he sent a perfect strike across the ground to the far, left side of the net. Clougher appeared slow to react and probably blocked a defender as he could only watch the ball tuck inside the post.
Like Myer, it was Ramirez's fifth goal of the season.
The final seconds were quickly erased as Messiah repeatedly played to their attack and kept the Lords from attempting another shot.
The Falcons finished with a 19-10 edge in shots and a 7-1 advantage in corners. West and Clougher both collected three saves.