Falcons Regain Lead Over Hawks, Move to Second Round
Grantham, PA - Messiah College freshman Trisha Tshudy broke a 1-1 tie in the 77th minute of play on Saturday, propelling the Falcons to a 2-1 win over Roger Williams in the First Round of the NCAA Championships.
Tshudy's goal came on a scramble in the box after a corner kick by the Falcons. Regina Stump served the corner into the box, where it was headed to the goal by Macaulay Soto and blocked by the Hawks' defense before Tshudy punched it in.
The goal was Tshudy's fourth of the season, and first since Messiah's 3-0 win over Muhlenberg on Sept. 12.
Tshudy's game-winner moves Messiah, ranked No. 1 in the NSCAA Top 25 Poll, into the Second Round where they will face Grove City College. The Wolverines defeated Western Connecticut State University in Saturday's second game, 2-1 in overtime.
In Saturday's First Round game, the Falcons earned the win after seeing a 1-0 lead turn into a 1-1 tie at halftime. Messiah's score came on an own goal by the Hawks' Megan Hoover, as she attempted to clear a cross into the box off the foot of Messiah senior Rachel Scheibeler. But Hoover's strike did not land cleanly, as the ball slanted behind her and past keeper Stephanie Jaques to the left side of the goal.
Though the score put Messiah up 1-0 in the 24th minute, the game remained tight-- just like it was from the very beginning, as Roger Williams kept their backfield crowded while being selective in their attack; only Mariah Kaiser and Haley Carigan were consistently roaming ahead for the Hawks, awaiting a chance to push against the Falcons' defense.
Less than 10 minutes after going down 0-1, they found the chance they were looking for.
At that time, the Falcons actually seemed poised to take a 2-0 lead when freshman Nikki Elsaesser was played a ball in the right side of the box. Her shot from 15 yards out was blocked, with the ball bounding across the 18-yard line where sophomore Mackenzie Clapper was running from the left side. Clapper's shot was also blocked, with the Hawks quickly regaining possession 25 yards out from the goal. Jessica Reade pounded the ball up the field and, with Messiah still pushed up on their attack, found freshman Mariah Kaiser over the midfield against the run of play.
Kaiser took the ball at her feet 40 yards out from the Messiah goal, driving forward as Messiah defenders Elizabeth Phillips and Ali Rogers tried to push her outside. But Kaiser managed to attack into the Falcons' penalty box, placing a shot from the left side perfectly across to the far post—just outside the dive of Messiah keeper Audra Larson and into the right edge of the goal.
"It's a situation where a ball pops out to a player, and all of a sudden they have a girl streaking behind us," Messiah head coach Scott Frey said. "I think you get focused on what's happening on one side of the field and you lose track of transition.
"She finished well, that was quite a chance. She made the best of it."
Though the goal energized the Hawks, Messiah had a chance to take regain the lead just minutes later. Tshudy was fouled on the left side of the field—just outside the penalty box—to set up an indirect kick. Phillips' serve to the far post was played into the air by Soto, but her redirect to the front of the goal came after the ball passed out of bounds.
A few minutes later, the Falcons and Hawks would enter the intermission tied 1-1. The Falcons took just two shots in the first half, with the Hawks making good on their only attempt.
With the Hawks' defensive focus limiting the Falcons' opportunities, Messiah decided to make an adjustment at the start of the second half, starting Elseasser in the midfield.
The move certainly changed the dynamic of the game, as Messiah began to control possession at a rate more familiar to their fans in attendance.
"It gave us another player to play off of up front," Frey said of the formation adjustment. "(Roger Williams) was always up in numbers on their half, so we wanted to at least be even. It helped quite a bit, and we were able to create more chances."
True to the point, the Falcons would take 19 shots in the second half—including Tshudy's game-winner.
"Thankfully, we had a ball skip to the right place," Frey said of the ball that landed at Tshudy's feet.
Even before Tshudy's score, the Falcons seemed like they were ready to take the lead. Stump's corner was the third straight attempt, with the previous two serves being cleared over the end line by the Hawks' defense. On the second of the three corners, senior Alex Brandt almost put home a shot from 22 yards out on the left side, with Jaques punching her shot over the right corner of the goal.
The shot by Brandt was one of just three on the day, as Roger Williams collapsed on the talented midfielder whenever she gained possession.
"Alex broke pressure several times, but they were definitely closing on here every time she touched it," Frey said of the Hawks' defense on Brandt. "In those situations, we have to be really effective in how we play out of the midfield, and we have to sharp. But it can be frustrating when it's not all connecting out there."
Up 2-1, the Falcons continued to maintain possession as the clock counted down. The Hawks' last great attempt at another chance to tie the game came with less than six minutes to play, as Kaiser stripped Messiah defender Anne Trapp of her possession near the midfield line. However, Kaiser's attack to the right edge of the 18-yard line was stopped by Phillips, as the senior defender stole possession back before a shot could be taken.
In total, Messiah held the Hawks to just one shot in the second half.
"They were really organized, and they were good athletically," Frey said of Roger Williams. "They had a plan and they stuck to it."
Included in Roger Williams' plan was their playing of only one substitute off their bench, as only 12 total players saw field time. Conversely, Messiah played nine players—including Tshudy-- off their bench in their usual attempt to wear down their opponent.
"Our bench did a really good job of adding energy," Frey said. "It pays off in the end, and it helps to have a number of players off our bench that can be effective. It's huge."
With the win, Messiah advances to the Second Round to take on Sam Weber and the Wolverines of Grove City. Weber delivered the game-winning goal in their win over Western Connecticut State, scoring 1:27 into overtime.
Game time on Sunday, Nov. 11, is set for 5:00 p.m. on Shoemaker Field.