GRANTHAM, Pa. -- Messiah scored two goals in the first half and also escaped an early flurry of chances by the Lord Jeffs to defeat Amherst 2-0 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. With the win, Messiah advances to the sectional semifinals for the tenth consecutive season.
Alicia Frey scored the game winner in the 16th minute with a volley from 20 yards out in the midfield. Holly Burgard initially played the ball into the box from the right corner, where it was headed away and to the midfield by defender Maya Jackson Gibson. With seemingly everyone waiting for the ball to come down, Frey came crashing in for the hard strike to the right side of the net.
As exciting as Frey's goal was, it was actually Amherst that came close to going on top early. Sarah Zuckerman managed to hit the crossbar twice in the first seven minutes of the game, the first of which came on a forceful shot from just 10 yards out. The second shot by Zuckerman came on a header off a serve by Ariana Twomey. In between those two attempts, Hannah Cooper also came close to scoring on a ball from the right side that went on the ground and across an open goal; Cooper ran onto the ball from the left side but missed in her attempt to put the ball into the net.
The missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Lord Jeffs as Frey would score on Messiah's first true opportunity at the goal.
Less than 11 minutes after Frey's tally—and as Messiah began to settle into the game—the Falcons added a second goal. Playing off a long cross into the box Macaulay Soto moved to the right side to take a shot. But she stumbled a bit in her attempt, and managed only to send a soft shot to the middle of the goal. Nikki Elsaesser ran on and beat keeper Holly Burwick to the ball for a quick strike into the net.
The goal was Elsaesser's 20th of the season.
Undeterred and still playing with high energy, Amherst came close to earning a goal back with just more than 15 minutes left before the half. Pushing ahead against the run of play, Megan Kim—the Lord Jeffs' leading scorer— fired a shot from the left corner of the 18-yard line that went a yard wide of the far post. It would be her only attempt of the game, though she nearly collected an assist on a chip to the Messiah goal with less than two minutes until the break. Audra Larson grabbed that pass out of the air, however, keeping Cooper from putting a shot on it.
At the half Amherst led in shots (5-4) while the teams were tied in corner attempts with three apiece.
In the second-half Amherst continued to battle but could not create opportunities like they had to start the game. Messiah, though, came close to adding goals one more than one occasion. Perhaps their best chance came in the 68th minute on a shot by Marisa Weaver. Elsaesser got into the box on the right side and slotted back to Weaver who was running in from the left. Her shot from 10 yards out sailed high, however, keeping it a 2-0 game.
In the end, the Falcons' defense held the Lord Jeffs to just one shot in the second half. The shutout was also Messiah's eighth in its past nine games.
The loss for Amherst ends its season at 10-4-3 while Messiah moves to 20-2-1. The Falcons advance to the sectional semifinals where they will face Ithaca. The Bombers qualified for the match with a 1-0 win against Rowan.