Falcons Shock Blue Jays, Fly Away 4-0
Baltimore, MD - In case you were wondering, early-season drama is not in short supply for the Falcons of 2012. Need proof? Look no further than the Falcons' 4-0 win over rival Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday night.
The Falcons defeated the Blue Jays—ranked No. 3 in the most recent NSCAA Top 25 Poll—on the Jays' home field, rebounding from another dramatic, albeit saddening, overtime loss to Emory over the weekend.
On Wednesday, the Falcons played to a more familiar standard against a familiar rival.
The history of these two teams has been rich, especially of late. The Falcons entered Wednesday's contest with a four-game winning streak—including two wins in NCAA Quarterfinal match-ups— against the Blue Jays dating back to 2009. Though that may seem one-sided, it has become obvious that when these two powerhouses meet the games will be both physical and thrilling.
By that measure, Wednesday's game did not disappoint.
The Falcons and Blue Jays traded opportunities early in the game, with Messiah themselves losing more than one ball over the end line as they were adjusting to the speed of the turf field.
In the 30th minute, a restart from a Blue Jays' foul led to a shot from senior Alex Brandt from 25 yards out. A diving save by JHU keeper Meredith Maguire kept the Falcons off the board, as did a similar save on a hard strike from junior Alicia Frey just two minutes later.
The Blue Jays then responded with their own attack, with Pamela Vranis being slotted a ball through the Messiah defense in the 35th minute. Vranis and Messiah keeper Audra Larson came together at almost the same moment, with Larson sliding for a save just five yards in front of the box. Just over two minutes later, a Blue Jays' free kick from 25 yards out in the midfield was deflected off the top of the Falcons' wall and just over the cross bar.
With the intensity of the game obviously rising, Messiah broke through just before halftime. Junior Emily Schneider secured possession along the left side, cutting her attack in towards the end line before slotting a cross low to the left side of the box. The ball was met by freshman Nikki Elsaesser and directed sharply to the far right post, over Maguire and into the side of the net.
The Blue Jays' resulting possession led directly to a corner kick, but no answer was made as Messiah entered the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
Johns Hopkins almost managed to knot the game at the beginning of the second half, with Larson making impressive saves on two separate occasions. The first was on a break away by JHU's Christina Convey, with Larson sliding out of the goal box to block Convey's shot from 20 yards out. Moments later Larson made leaping, one-handed deflection at the goal's corner on a shot by Sydney Teng.
With Larson and the Falcons' back row keeping the Blue Jays off the board, Messiah continued with their offensive pressure. In the 56th minute, Brandt added the Falcons' second goal on a strong strike from just inside the top of the box. The goal was the result of a pass from Trishia Tshudy from the right side, a pass made possible by Tshudy's footwork past a JHU defender.
Now up 2-0, Larson again collected a dramatic save, this time in the 75th minute of play. Larson went into a slide 10 yards in front of the goal to secure a ball that was slotted cleanly to Teng. Though not Larson's last save on the night, it was the Blue Jays' last attempt from within the Falcons' box.
With less than 10 minutes to play, the Falcons broke the game open with two more scores. Tshudy picked up her second goal of the game, this one unassisted and lofted over the keeper from outside the 18-yard line. Brandt also picked up another goal, assisted by sophomore Lauren Federline, when she was hit on a run through the middle of the Blue Jays' goal box. Her shot beat Maguire one-on-one at the net.
With the win, Messiah improves to 2-1-0 on the season. Messiah entered the game ranked No. 5 in this week's NSCAA poll, dropping from their preseason slot of No. 1 due to Emory loss. Johns Hopkins', whose No. 3 ranking was the highest in their program's history, falls to the same record as the Falcons.
The Falcons collected 12 shots in the game, with 10 for the Blue Jays. Johns Hopkins attempted six corner kicks to Messiah's three. Larson collected five saves in the game, all in the second half. Maguire recorded four saves.
Messiah will look to keep their newfound momentum going this weekend when they host No. 1 William Smith on Shoemaker Field. The game will be a rematch of last year's NCAA Final Four contest, a 1-0 win for the Falcons. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m.