December 1, 2012

Messiah emphatically stakes claim to ninth title

Sophomore Mike Kovach scores Messiah's second goal, and fifth of the tournament, in earning Offensive MVP honors.
Photo by Eric Kelley,

As No. 5 Ohio Northern took to the field against top-ranked Messiah, the Polar Bears were coming off a new experience and looking forward to yet another, as they had never before played in the Final Four in men's soccer. But Saturday's result would be far from that of their semifinal victory against Williams on Friday, as Messiah ran out to a four goal lead in the first twenty minutes of play on the way to a dominating 5-1 win.

Messiah-ONU box score

It was the Falcon's ninth title in 13 years, and accomplished on the backs of the Falcon sophomore class. Sophomore midfielder Brian Rameriz opened the scoring when his 20 yard free kick beat senior keeper Mac Church in sixth minute. The Falcons would double their lead before the ten-minute mark when sophomore Mike Kovach received the ball unmarked on the right side and blasted it home. It would be his last contribution of the day as an injury forced him to the bench shortly thereafter, but with five goals in the tournament

Sophomore Jeremy Payne turns away from the pressure en route to goal.  He would score a pair for the Falcons.
Photo by Eric Kelley,

including the game-winner against Loras on Friday, he had already done his share for the Falcons.

Messiah would double the Polar Bears' frustration when sophomore Carter Robbins headed home a corner kick in the 16th minute, and sophomore Jeremy Payne scored from close range after getting behind the Ohio Northern backline in the 19th minute.

After making some substitutions and catching their breath, the Polar Bears began to find their feet and stem the tide. But even so, they couldn't force Messiah's keeper into action as the half would end without a single Messiah save and the Falcons with a commanding 4-0 lead.

Messiah would extend their lead even further just five minutes after the intermission. Payne notched his second of the day off a feed from Josh Wood. That laid to rest any thoughts that 

Messiah's forward Josh Wood holds off Ohio Northern's Josh Green in prusuit of the ball.
Photo by Eric Kelley,

maybe Ohio Northern could re-group at halftime and make a game of it with some early second half goals. The Polar Bears would finally get a goal four minutes later when senior midfielder Cameron Johnson was left unmarked to head home a flicked on cross.

Messiah ended the match with 23 shots while Ohio Northern managed 15, although just two were on frame. The Polar Bears took 11 corner kicks while Messiah earned 9, the first one leading to their third goal. Fouls were even at 12 apiece.

After the match, the All-Tournament team was announced and for Messiah, sophomore goalkeeper Brandon West, sophomore midfielder Jack Thompson, Payne, Kovach, and senior defender Logan Thompson were named to the team.  Representing Ohio Northern on the team are freshman midfielder Shintaroh Itoh, senior defender Austin Windsor, and senior forward Nate Bascom.

For Messiah, Mike Kovach and Logan Thompson were awarded Offensive and Defensive MVP trophies.

Ohio Northern's record setting season comes to a close at 25-3-0, while Messiah completes another championship season at 23-0-2.

The Falcon men now await the women's final at 5:30 pm CT to see if Messiah can win both titles in the same year for the third time in program history.

Ohio Northern's Keegan Ross battles Messiah's Josh Kremers.
Photo by Eric Kelley,
At the final whistle, Messiah's players celebrate the school's ninth national title.
Photo by Eric Kelley,











Post-game Analysis

By Christan Shirk

For Messiah it was a breathtaking start as everything went right in the opening twenty minutes. The early pace of the game was rather fast, something that seemed to keep the Falcons from settleling into the game against Loras, but today they looked ready and comfortable. While four goals that quickly was surprising, it was not entirely unexpected that the Falcons would get plenty of good chances after watching Ohio Northern's play in their semifinal the day before. The Polar Bears didn't put enough pressure on the ball which had allowed the much less accomplished attack of Williams the time and space to work the ball into scoring positions with regularity. While it's possible that the Polar Bears could have done a better job closing down the Falcon players at times in that decisive opening twenty minutes, to be fair to both sides, Messiah's ball control at high speed and clinical finishing had more to do with the scoreboard operator being kept busy.  

Once the score was 4-0, the outcome was all but decided. Messiah hadn't conceded four goals in a single game since the 1998 season opener. In fact, it's a pretty short list of games over that same time frame in which they have allowed a pair of goals in a match, so it would have taken the greatest comeback in the history of the tournament for Ohio Northern to cancel Messiah's advantage.

The Polar Bears did steady themselves, but the Messiah defense did an excellent job keeping Ohio Northern's big guns in check. Who can say what the emotional state of the Polar Bears was after going down by four, so it's unfair to try to draw any conclusions about their attack or Messiah's defense from that point forward. If the ball had bounced a little differently and Messiah hadn't been so clinical at the start, we may have seen a more balanced and captivating battle between Ohio Northern's offensive weapons and Messiah's backline.

Those who had been claiming that the Messiah-Loras semifinal was the true final certainly are feeling justified following this outcome. And any objective look at the weekend's games does point to that conclusion. Nevertheless, it was a great, precendent-setting season for the Ohio Northern. Their core of seniors have etched their names in school history and culminated an excellent four year with a runner-up finish.

Messiah just keep setting a new standard for sustained excellence. And has fourth-year head coach Brad McCarty proven he can continue the success of his predecessor? Three titles in four years. An undefeated season after three one-loss seasons. And think about this. Six of Messiah's starters were just sophomores. Five of their top six in goals, assists, and points in 2012 were sophomores or freshmen. All five goals today were scored by sophomores. Good new for Coach McCarty, bad news for the rest of D-III.

No contests today.
No contests today.
No contests today.