Second-Half Scores Lead Messiah Past Lebanon Valley
Grantham, PA - Corinne Wulf and Nikki Elsaesser each scored second-half goals to back up Messiah's sixth-straight shutout as the Falcons opened up Commonwealth Conference play with a 2-0 win over Lebanon Valley. The win moved Messiah, ranked No. 8 and No. 9 in the most recent NSCAA Top 25 and D3Soccer.com Top 25 polls, respectively, to 8-2-1 on the season.
Last season the Falcons overcame a 0-2 hole to the Dutchmen on their home field to win 3-2. On Saturday, it looked as though the teams were again heading toward a tight finish. Each team did find a few opportunities to push through a goal in the first-half, though most of the opening 45 minutes included inconsistent possession by both teams.
"Our passing was not very good in the first-half," said Messiah head coach Scott Frey. "We really didn't connect more than three or four passes at a time. We were able to limit LVC, too, but we weren't playing as sharp as we'd like."
Messiah came out of the break with increased aggressiveness and, in turn, created more opportunities to break through. In the 49th minute they capitalized on one such opportunity after Emily Schneider made an assertive run onto a cross from Alicia Frey. Schneider never did touch the ball on Frey's pass from the right end line, though Becca Sykes was forced to slide out in an attempt to reach the ball first. With the Messiah winger flipping over Sykes, the ball came loose and landed at the feet of Corinne Wulf for a quick one-touch to put the Falcons up 1-0.
"We started to battle more in the second-half and it was good to see (Emily) Schneider make the run into the box," commented Frey. "We made something happen there."
Sykes was shaken up after colliding with Schneider and came out of the game; Taylor Reinhold replaced Sykes in goal and made three saves to keep the game close.
Nevertheless, Messiah continued to own territory after Wulf's goal and came close a few times to adding a second goal. Elsaesser had perhaps the best look in the 59th minute when she was fed inside the top of the 18-yard line before turning to the left for a powerful strike that sailed over the crossbar.
Moments later, Holly Burgard sent a shot to the top of the goal from 25 yards out that Reinhold punched over the crossbar at the last moment.
"We had much better ball movement as the game went on," said Frey of his team's play in the second-half. "Lebanon Valley always plays us straight-up and they do a great job. Fortunately for us we played pretty well in the later minutes."
Near the end of the game Elsaesser put the game with a quick shot past Reinhold in front of the goal. Her chance came after a deflection from Frey's shot landed at her feet.
The Falcons' second-half dominance was made possible largely to another stellar performance from their defense. Messiah held the Dutchmen to just four shots—15 shots less than their season average—as they collected their sixth-straight shutout and eight overall. Audra Larson did her part by collecting four saves.
"Ashley Locke and Hannah Weyland played really well—extremely well," said Frey, who also went on to applaud the steady of Ali Rogers. "Our entire back row has given us some confidence. They did it against a good team today, too. It's a good win."
Lebanon Valley falls to 5-4-2 with the loss, including 1-0 in the Commonwealth. Messiah will look to move to 2-0 in the conference when they travel to Hood College on Monday, Oct. 7 for a rare Monday afternoon contest.