Messiah takes the title!
Match report by Christan Shirk
After falling behind early, Messiah wins it's fourth Championship with a 3-1 victory over Wheaton, led by Erin Hench's two goals and one assist.
|Freshman Anna Seabolt celebrates her goal with seniors Jaime Orewiler and Ali Kopelman Photo for D3soccer.com by Emily Daum|
Wheaton knew how valuable getting the first goal would be and conversely they knew how tough it would be to try to play from behind against Messiah. They got exactly what they were looking for at the seven minute mark. The Thunder played the ball down the right flank, finding Val Lelle who sent a cross into the center of the area where a couple players from either side contested the ball, Katelyn Kishkunas getting her head to it without much direction and popping it back up and this time Anna Seabolt was able to redirect the ball goal ward, looping over the Messiah keeper almost as if in slow motion before falling over the line and into the net. 1-0 Wheaton.
Messiah reacted by applying pressure of their own, maintaining possession around or in the Wheaton box for a spell that forced two corners, but no game-tying tallies before Wheaton was able to push the ball back into the middle third. It would be momentary relief. Corrine Wulf would send Erin Hench a leading pass into the box, but Hench overran the ball a half step and possession was lost. Wheaton had survived Messiah’s spurt and the game settled back into a more even contest.
At the 14 minute mark Wheaton’s Jamie Orewiler got space down the middle and let loose with an on-target 25 yard shot that Autumn Reilly handled without too much trouble near the right post. The next minute saw Alex Brandt with time and space in the center of the field finding Lisa Wingard down the right flank with a chip over the covering defender. Wingard collected the ball and before her defender could recover served a perfect cross into the 6-yard box finding Hench on a full run for the near post to head home from close range. All even at one!
|Senior Erin Hench works through the Wheaton defense Photo for D3soccer.com by Emily Daum|
Five minutes later it was Messiah again threatening. Hench turned quickly and squared the ball to a streaking Brandt who carried the ball into the box but was met by a committee of defenders and couldn’t find an opening for a shot. Messiah would maintain an advantage in possession, but they weren’t as sharp in their passing and control as they normally are. Ten minutes would tick off the clock without the Wheaton goal really being threatened despite the amount of time the ball would stay in the Thunder half.
It was the Thunder who would get the next good chance to break the tie. In the 32nd minute a ball crossed into the box was headed out by Messiah, but only to the top of the box and the loose ball got kicked out to the right for a shot on goal that Reilly had covered. Soon after, the Falcons worked a give and go down the center channel, Brandt to Olivia Scott to Brandt, who advanced toward the area before shooting wide.
In the 37th minute Wingard again was able to get behind the defense in the right corner for a cross to the far side that fell between the runs of Hench and Mackenzie Clapper and was cleared from the area. The ball remained in Messiah’s offensive third and Hench was able to receive the ball at the top of the area, back to goal and left of center, but her shot on the turn was blocked.
In the 40th minute Wheaton was finally able to get into their attacking third again resulting in a cross to the top of the area that Orewiler was able to meet with a driving header that needed to be and was saved by Reilly. It was back the other way and in what was becoming an all too familiar strain Wingard was behind the defense down the right flank and served the ball to the far side. With Messiah’s Clapper zeroing in on the cross, Wheaton’s Lelle felt it necessary to first time the ball out for a corner, but had her team holding their collective breath as the ball whizzed inches wide of the right post, nearly a spectacular own goal. Wheaton would hold out to halftime and all things considered needed to feel good to be tied with the Falcons at the break.
Wheaton showed renewed energy and drive after the halftime talk and were again taking the game to Messiah much as they had done to open the game. The Thunder were buoyed by the fact that despite being forced to play defense for a majority of the opening stanza, they still had as many shots, all theirs on target, and goals as Messiah. In the 47th minute a Wheaton corner kick was chested down by Laura Karsten in 6-yard box and for a long one second the ball remained loose one yard from 2-1 before Reilly could cover. It was Wheaton again two minutes later with a run down the left side, shoulder-to-shoulder with a defender, resulting in a toe-poke effort that was wide left of the target.
The first Messiah threat of the half came in the 50th minute. Wingard out-raced her defender cutting into the right side of the box and centering for Hench who couldn’t get turned enough to put her shot on frame. In the 53rd minute Orewiler made a nice run before the defense forced her left and she couldn’t pull her shot back enough to be on goal. A couple minutes later Sarah Guidera had the ball a step off the endline on the edge of the 6-yard box and her chip over both her defender and the goalkeeper almost snuck in at the far post.
|Wheaton junior keeper Hilary Barreto blocks an Erin Hench shot Photo for D3soccer.com by Emily Daum|
It was a good spell for the Thunder, but unfortunately they had no go-ahead goal to show for it before the initiative swung back in Messiah’s favor. In the 60th minute Messiah’s Wulf, running awkwardly from a 1st half an injury to her shoulder, won a ball down the left sideline and cut inside to rip a shot from just outside the top left corner of the area that forced Hilary Barreto to make her first save since entering in goal at halftime. A minute later, Ali Rogers fed the ball ahead to Hench with a defender on her back, but a quick turn inside by Hench left the defender a step behind as she angled into the area and bore down on goal. Her first shot from 10 yards was blocked by Barreto but the rebound came right back to Hench to touch home from 5 yards and give the Falcons a 2-1 lead.
Wheaton nearly tied it up right away, working the ball down the left off the restart then passing the ball laterally across the top of the box to Seabolt whose strong shot would have gone in if not for Reilly’s great one-hand touch to tip the ball over the bar. Two minutes later it was Wingard again causing the Wheaton defense fits, breaking free of her defender to enter the area from the right and let loose a shot which Barreto could only block over the endline for a corner.
The Messiah pressure continued and in the 68th minute Hench would turn provider. Brandt made a beautiful pass to find Hench on the right wing. She moved the ball down field and sent in a cross which a loosely marked Hannah Weyland was able to redirect on goal strongly enough to beat the keeper. Messiah had an insurance goal which was an emotional blow for the Thunder.
|The Messiah Falcons celebrate their National Championship! Photo for D3soccer.com by Chris Shirk|
In no time Messiah was again on the doorstep, Hench touching the ball to Wingard who shot right at the keeper. Down at the other end, Wheaton knocked a ball into the area that two forwards were converging on, but Kelsey Gorman got a foot in to clear the danger. It would be the last real danger the Thunder would create until the waning moments. Not so for Messiah. Alicia Frey headed wide left off the cross from Wingard in the 74th minute and less than two minutes later Clapper gathered a Wheaton clearance attempt on the left, side-stepped a defender and ripped a shot that Barreto could only palm over the bar.
With the outcome all but final, Wheaton’s Kristen Clark would head wide right off a long cross from the right sideline and Ann Turner would shoot high over the bar. The final three minutes were uneventful and Messiah had claimed their fourth national title by a 3-1 count. Wheaton ends their season with a 23-2-2 record. They have combined with Messiah to win seven of the last eight women’s championships have. Messiah completed their season undefeated with a 23-0-1 mark.
|The Wheaton Thunder pose with their Runner-Up trophy Photo for D3soccer.com by Emily Daum|
|Messiah and Wheaton players voted on the All-Tournament Team Photo for D3soccer.com by Emily Daum|
|When Messiah plays Wheaton in the NCAA tournament, it is not on unfamiliar ground. Between the mens and women's programs, the Falcons and the Thunder have faced off four times in the national final. And after every match, regardless of the outcome, the teams join together on the field and honor what they have in common as teams, coaches, and schools Photo for D3soccer.com by Emily Daum|