by Ashlyn Miller and Mason McFee
As students turn their calendars to November and start working toward Thanksgiving break, the Messiah women’s soccer team is staying in high gear.
The postseason begins Thursday night for the No.1-seeded Falcons, as they face No. 4 Lebanon Valley College on Shoemaker Field in the MAC Commonwealth Semifinal.
“Our team is more than ready for this game coming up. We know that in order to do well; sleep, nutrition, and our spiritual walk with the Lord need to be priorities,” says sophomore midfielder Lydia Eichorn.
The Falcons face a Dutchmen team that went 13-5 during the regular season, but faced some losses in conference play, going 5-3 overall in the MAC. The two teams last met about a month ago, when Messiah notched a 5-0 win on Oct. 7 with 23 shots on goal versus the Dutchmen’s 2.
Last season the Falcons were 22-0-3 during the regular season and were a NCAA Sectional Finalist, making it all the way to the match that determined the NCAA Final Four. They fell to Lynchburg College after a double overtime 1-1 tie was broken with a 3-1 Lynchburg advantage during the penalty kick shootout.
Prior to that loss, the Falcons fell to Stevenson in the 2014 MAC Championship after penalty kicks settled a 1-1 tie. That memory of a close loss is providing even more motivation for the team.
“We’re mostly upperclassmen, so we all remember the heartbreak from last year. Playoffs always create that different feel – this could be our last game,” says senior midfielder Macaulay Soto.
The team emphasized that staying “mentally prepared” was the main goal this week at practice. While the atmosphere is feeling more intense, there is an underlying calm because of their confidence in their physical preparation.
“The only way we won’t be really good is if we beat ourselves. It gives us a confidence boost. Coach (Scott Frey) has the confidence in us and belief in us, but it’s up to us and what we do with it…we are in control of our own destiny,” says Soto.
On Thursday night, Messiah will look toward their strong line-up of 11 recently announced All-MAC Commonwealth players and the strong scoring performances of Nikki Elsaesser (22 goals on the year) and fellow forwards Kyele Bridel (12) and Marisa Weaver (13).
“Every game is crucial from here on out, because if you lose one you’re done. There are no second chances, so we need to make the most of every moment that we have,” says sophomore midfielder Ally Reinhardt.
Since this is a playoff event, there is a small $2 charge for student admission. The action kicks off at 6 p.m. at Shoemaker.