Messiah Over Scranton 3-0, Off to the Final Four!
York, PA – One day after taking a heart-stopping penalty kicks decision over York College, Messiah earned a 3-0 win over Scranton to earn a trip to the NCAA Final Four. The Falcons scored twice in the second half to pull away from Scranton, with Brian Ramirez, Mike Kovach, and Aaron Myers each tallying for Messiah.
With the win, Messiah qualifies for the NCAA Final Four to be played in San Antonio, TX. This season marks the tenth time in the last 12 years that Messiah will advance to the NCAA Semifinal.
"We were a little fortunate to get past York yesterday," head coach Brad McCarty said, reflecting on the Falcons' playing on Saturday by way of their win over the Spartans. "While we did catch a few breaks, we've also made an impact on our fortune with our strong play."
Messiah controlled possession throughout the afternoon on Sunday, testing the Royals' defense with passing in and out of the midfield. A free kick opportunity for Josh Kremers sailed just high of the crossbar in the third minute of the game, almost giving the Falcons the lead.
Still scoreless, the Royals managed little in their counter against the Falcons' defense. Luke Helmuth broke open the Royals' two attacks into the penalty box, with Scranton unable to attempt even one shot in the first half.
Messiah's control finally broke through in the 25th minute of play, with Jeremy Payne dropping back to Brian Ramirez on the right side of midfield. In an instant, Ramirez took a quick touch and fired to the right side of the goal. Screaming low across the turf, the ball hit off the inside of the right post and caromed into the goal.
The goal was Ramirez's sixth on the season, and would prove to be the game-winner.
The Falcons nearly added a second goal before the half, with freshman Bryant Myers attacking through the midfield and slotting a ball through the left side to Aaron Myers. A quick touch by Aaron was followed by a shot near the left post, right into the hands of keeper James Dillon.
After passing through halftime, the Falcons continued to dominate possession. Just over 11 minutes into the frame, Kovach scored his third goal in two days to give his team a 2-0 lead. His score came at the end of a play he started moments earlier with a serve from the right side. The shot was cleared toward the top of the box to Ramirez, with Ramirez's shot blocked and landing at the feet of Jack Thompson on the left side. The ball moved sharply to Payne near the left post, and then back to Ramirez in the middle before he fed Kovach on the right edge of the box. His shot came from 10 yards off the right post, a strong strike past Dillon for the 2-0 lead.
"When we move the ball well, we look good," McCarty said. "I think our ball movement today was too much for (Scranton)."
Less than 10 minutes after his team earned a 2-0 lead, Messiah keeper Brandon West turned away the Royals' best attempt to get on the board. His save came on a header by Patrick Daly in the middle of the box, a sharp redirect of a left-sided serve from Tom O'Connor. Prepared for the shot, West leapt straight up to punch Daly's shot over the crossbar.
Outside of two free kick attempts—both from 30 yards out on the right side, and both played away from the box—the Royals never threatened again.
Meanwhile, junior Aaron Myers provided the exclamation point for Messiah with an impressive score in the 85th minute. Attacking down the left side of the field, Myers cut in below the corner of the 18-yard line and weaved through two Scranton defenders before launching a shot from five yards off the post. The ball darted under Dillon for the goal—Myers' first of the year.
"I think this is a good team," McCarty said of the Falcons. "We're well-rounded, with a good keeper, six guys that are solid in the backfield, and dynamic players up front.
"It's hard to win 20-plus games in a season, so we're excited to still be playing."
The loss ends Scranton's season at 17-3-2, with their run into the Sectional Final including an upset of No. 5 Stevens Tech. This season was the Royals' first NCAA berth since 1993.
"I think Scranton is a good team," McCarty said. "They defend well and they're organized. I thought they did a good job of staying in the game for as long as they did."
With the win, Messiah qualifies for the NCAA Final Four to be played in San Antonio, TX— the tenth time in the past 12 years that Messiah advances into the NCAA Semifinal. It is the Falcons' first appearance since earning three-straight National Championships from 2008-2010.
"We're excited to keep training," McCarty said. "We see the next two weeks (leading to the Final Four) as an opportunity to get better. But mostly, we're excited to max out our number of practices and time together."
Messiah will oppose Loras College at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, on Friday, Nov. 30. The winner will move to the national final on Saturday, Dec. 1, to play either Ohio Northern or Williams.