SAN ANTONIO -- The Messiah Falcons will vie for a 10th NCAA Division III championship on Saturday after a 4-0 semifinal shutout of the Williams Ephs Friday night at Toyota Field.
Messiah (21-1-1) will meet Rutgers-Camden, a 3-2 overtime winner against Loras, for the title. Williams, in its second consecutive semifinal appearance, and third in the last five years, concluded the campaign with a 15-7-0 record.
The Falcons will also make their 10th NCAA championship appearance, beginning in 2000, when they captured their first national crown.
Fifth-year head coach Brad McCarty is responsible for three of those championships in the past four years. Messiah defeated Ohio Northern 5-1 in the 2012 title tilt, held at San Antonio's Blossom Soccer Stadium.
"We have a lot of respect for Wlliams," McCarty said. "I wasn't quite sure what this game was going to look like. I knew they did a very good job of compacting the midfield. We like to pass through the midfield. I thought it was going to be difficult, and it certainly was at times."
Three of the four goals came from Messiah juniors, including the game winner from midfielder Brian Ramirez in the eighth minute of play. Ramirez, a 2012 All-American, also supplied the assist in the third goal, chalked up by defender Carter Robbins in the 59th minute."I think we work together as a team really well," Ramirez said. "It wasn't ever a really individual type of goal. It was more of a build off of the team passing together. Goals are a culmination of everybody working together."
Jeremy Payne, also a 2012 All-American, gave the Falcons a 2-0 lead in the 29th minute, on an assist from junior midfielder Mike Kovach. The final scoring play, in the 63rd minute, came from freshman Danny Brandt, on an assist from senior forward Joshua Wood.
The taut Messiah defense allowed Williams 11 shots, and only one in the frame. As a contrast, the Falcons took 25 total shots, with 11 on goal. Williams senior goalkeeper Peter Morrell had five saves, and Messiah junior Brandon West made one.
"We had a very good season," said Michael Russo, who completed his 35th season as the Ephs head coach. "We didn't start off that well, but fortunately we got an at-large bid to the NCAAs. When we came down here and played Messiah, it's a little different. But, I was pleased with what we accomplished this season."
The men's and women's semifinals and finals are being co-hosted by Trinity and San Antonio Sports for the fifth consecutive year.