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Messiah dominance Soto, MC duo lead Falcons to dual titles
Prior to this fall, there have only been three times in college history that a school’s men’s and women’s soccer teams captured the national championship in the same year.
You can now make that four.
Last Saturday, Messiah College took home dual NCAA Division-III championships on what turned out to be a monumental day for the Falcons in San Antonio, Texas.
The No. 1 ranked Messiah women, for whom 2012 Warwick grad Macaulay Soto is a freshman midfielder, got a goal from Rachel Scheibeler in the 21st minute and defeated No. 16 Emory University (located in Atlanta, Ga.) for their fifth national title in program history. Soto finished the season with three goals and four assists (10 points) while appearing in 22 of the Lady Falcons’ 26 games.
On the men’s side, Manheim Central’s Bryant (freshman midfielder) and Sheldon Myer (junior midfielder) helped the Falcons score four goals in the opening 20 minutes on their way to a 5-1 pummeling of Ohio Northern University. It was the Falcons’ ninth NCAA D-III crown in program history, and their final record of 23-0-2 accounts for the second time in program history they finish a season without a single loss (2005).
Sheldon started in 24 of the Falcons’ 25 games and accumulated four goals and one assist for nine points, while Bryant played in all 25 games, with one start, and finished four goals and six assists for 14 points.
While the Messiah men grabbed command of their game against Ohio Northern with only 20 minutes elapsed, the Lady Falcons had a nail-biter from start-to-finish as they avenged a 2-1 loss to Lady Eagles back in September. In fact, that win by Emory gave Messiah (24-1-1 overall record) its only loss of the season.
This marked the sixth straight season that the Messiah women advanced to the National Final. All five of their NCAA titles have come with head coach Scott Frey at the helm, who has compiled an impressive 276-14-13 record in 13 seasons.
According to Messiah College’s website, Frey said, "It never gets easy. There hasn’t been an easy one yet, and tonight was a battle from start to finish."
The contest started in Messiah’s favor, with the combination of Alex Brandt, Scheibeler and Nikki Elsaesser playing off each other and creating runs forward for the Lady Falcons. Even as Emory’s (15-2-7) physical defense managed to hamper the Messiah women’s attempts, it appeared the Lady Falcons were close to finding a goal-scoring connection.
That connection was made between Brandt and Scheibeler, with Brandt’s midfield possession starting 35 yards out from goal. Her eventual slot to Scheibeler’s goal in the 21st minute set off a celebration in the stands as the large Messiah contingent cheered the goal.
Down 1-0, the Lady Eagles seemed jolted back into focus as they soon began to create chances of their own. Just minutes after Messiah’s score, Emily Feldman lofted a shot from 25 yards out over Messiah’s crossbar.
Now getting challenged on their defensive end, Messiah almost pushed across a second goal in the 30th minute, as Holly Burgard’s right side serve went to Brandt just eight yards off the goal line in the Lady Eagles’ box. Brandt took one touch before losing sight of the ball for a split second, enough time for Emory to clear it away.
With the game still 1-0, Frey and Brandt each came within inches of a score just before the intermission. Frey’s attempt came on a free kick from 20 yards straight out from the goal — a similar position to her free kick score against Grove City just three weeks earlier. Her shot was struck to the perfect height, but zipped just wide of the top-right corner.
Emory keeper Kaele Leonard had two saves in the game, including a tremendous dive in the 65th minute to rob Soto from finishing a loose ball in front of the goal.
With their defense stifling the Lady Falcons in the second half, Emory began to play with more desperation and intensity. With the physicality of both teams continuing, Emory managed to control possession and territory for a majority of the second half. The Lady Eagles managed to collect nine shots in the second half, but only two on goal.
With the clock winding down, Emory’s last great opportunity came off a corner on the left side, but Lee Bachouros’ shot was 10 yards wide of the left post and the Messiah women held on for its fourth Division-III crown in five years.
Turning to the men’s championship, it took the Falcons just six minutes to get on the scoreboard, as sophomore Brian Ramirez opened the scoring, sending home a free kick from 20 yards out near midfield.
Just four minutes later, sophomore Mike Kovach put Messiah ahead 2-0 with a strong strike from the right side of the box. Played square from Joshua Wood in the middle, Kovach touched forward before sending his shot to the left side of the net.
The Falcons’ quick start was somewhat of a shock to both teams, especially the Polar Bears.
"They were all over us at the beginning," Ohio Northern coach Brent Ridenour said. "We talked with our guys about the importance of getting it out of our end, but (Messiah) didn’t let us breathe."
As if the 2-0 lead wasn’t enough to process — and with Messiah fans still cheering the Falcons’ advantage — Carter Robbins headed in a corner serve from Jack Thompson to give Messiah a 3-0 lead in the 16th minute.
Strongly ahead 3-0, Messiah still wasn’t done.
Less than three minutes after Robbins’ score, Jeremy Payne corralled a loose ball near the top of the 18-yard line, weaving to the left side and cutting to the goal. Finding himself one-on-one with ONU keeper Mac Church, Payne sent a quick strike to the right side of the net to complete a four-goal eruption for Messiah. The Falcons scored their first four goals on four shots.
Following the intermission, Messiah again started quickly as Payne added his second goal of the game in the 50th minute.
Ahead 5-0 at this point, Messiah was threatening to claim the largest margin of victory ever in a Division-III final — five goals, accomplished twice by UNC Greensboro (1985, 1987).
But Ohio Northern continued to battle and finally pushed across a score in the 54th minute off the head of Cameron Johnson.
The Polar Bears did battle to the end, launching 10 shots in the second half. But regardless of all the extra scoring chances, the result of the game was inevitable as Messiah’s high-powered offensive and defensive units proved too much for the Polar Bears.
The four-goal decision ties for the second-largest margin of victory for a national champ — tying the Falcons of 2004, 4-0 win over UC Santa Cruz. The win is also Messiah’s ninth title in nine Finals appearances, as Brad McCarty earned his third crown in four years as head coach of the Falcons.
The title is Messiah’s first since winning three in a row in 2008, 2009 and 2010. All of the Falcons’ titles have come since 2000. More MESSIAH, page B-4
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