Dec. 4, 2010

By Douglas Pils

Hardin-Simmons stunned Messiah with a fast start and withstood the Falcons valiant and frenzied second-half attack to win its first NCAA Division III womens soccer championship with a 2-1 victory Saturday at Blossom Athletic Complex.

The Cowgirls (24-0-1) ended the Falcons two-year championship run and their D-III record 76-game unbeaten streak while claiming the schools first Division III team championship of any kind.
I couldnt ask for a better way to finish my career,” Hardin-Simmons senior midfielder Carlyn Powers said. This is what we dream about.”

Its only the fourth national championship for the American Southwest Conference, joining Howard Payne womens basketball (2008), McMurry mens track and field (2008) and East Texas Baptist softball (2010).

Hardin-Simmons coach Marcus Wood started the game looking more prepared for a practice than a national title game, wearing a gray T-shirt and black soccer shorts. It was a relaxed look that his players showed on the field, looking very unafraid of a team making its fourth straight appearance in the national title game.

The Cowgirls turned that relaxed mode into a quick flurry, needing little more than five minutes to score two goals on a team that had allowed three all season.

Messiah gave up the opening goal in third minute.

Katie Kuykendalls corner kick into the box bounced around several teammates until junior midfielder Megan Ryan sent it back into the box where Powers drilled it past Messiah keeper Autumn Reilly.

The Cowgirls kept applying the pressure and added another about three minutes later.

All senior midfielder Erin Low needed was a quick touch on Kuykendalls low corner kick.

Senior defender Sarah Stansell set up the corner by keeping the ball alive on the left side and sending a cross into the Messiah goalkeeper box.

It was the 39th and 40th goals the Cowgirls scored this season off corner kicks.

We knew they were dangerous there and we couldnt give any up,” Messiah coach Scott Frey said. We gave up two for the game and they capitalized on both of them.

That second one was a tough hole to dig out of, without question.”

The Falcons (24-1-0) did their best in the second half, as Frey substituted freely, trying to take advantage of Messiahs depth.

That produced a constant attack that gave the Falcons a 9-1 shot advantage in the second half after getting outshot 7-3 in the first half.

It was just defending and dodging bullets,” Wood said.

We knew we couldnt give up,” said Hardin-Simmons senior midfielder Erin Low, who was named the tournaments offensive MVP. There was no way we were going to get beat. We had to do it all.”

It took everything the Cowgirls had to make that happen.

Messiah cut the lead in half in the 15th minute when freshman Alicia Frey, coach Freys daughter, turned with the ball just inside the box and lifted a shot over Roths head. Sophomore Alex Brandt was credited with her 13th assist of the season.

Roth spent the rest of the game deflecting wave after wave of Messiah attacks. In the 26th minute, she stopped a header from Corinne Wulf. In the 38th minute, Roth barely beat D-IIIs leading scorer Amanda Naeher to a ball in the goalie box. Two minutes later, she beat two attackers to a loose ball.

We knew they were going to come full force … They threw the house forward and even on the midfield everyone was bounding forward,” Wood said. It was unbelievable problems to solve, but thats why Scott is the best in the business.”
With 2:30 left, Roth stopped the Falcons last real threat, a 20-yard blast by Brandt.

They didnt wear on me at all,” said Roth, a junior who was named the tournaments defensive MVP. As a goalkeeper you live to have the ball coming at you. I love it and I was confident in that.”

The Falcons have been to the past four championship games, and their only two losses in those four seasons have come in the final match.

The Messiah seniors finish their careers with a 96-2-3 record.

Sometimes its not always a storybook ending, but I think it was a storybook career,” Frey said.