This weekend, both the men’s and women’s soccer teams will be back on campus for Homecoming. The women’s team will take on Albright College at 3 p.m., and the men’s team will cap off the night against the Lions at 6 p.m. Each team comes into Homecoming weekend ranked #6 in the D3 soccer poll, and #12 in the NSCAA coaches poll.
After a relatively slow start to the season, the women’s soccer team find themselves in a comfortable position atop the MAC Commonwealth standings as well as in a great position nationally. The Falcons started the season 2-2, with losses coming against William Smith, currently ranked #1 in the country, and Stevens Institute of Technology ranked #5 in the NSCAA coaches poll.
Certainly, neither loss constitutes a bad loss nor do they hurt the team’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament for the seventeenth straight year under head coach Scott Frey; but for a team who did not lose a game until the Final Four the previous year, a 2-2 start was different. Replacing National Player of the Year Nikki Elsaesser as well as the rest of the senior class was not going to be easy.
However, since their 2-0 loss at home to William Smith, the Falcons have run through their competition with eight straight wins, including a win against top 25 opponent McDaniel this past Saturday. Now, the team will look to make it nine straight wins on Saturday against the Albright Lions.
Senior Marisa Weaver leads the offensive attack with 16 goals, tied for fourth in the country. The forward tallied goals in nine of the twelve games this year along with five assists on the year. First-years Sunny Gelnovatch and Megan Mansfield contribute heavily on the offensive end as well. Gelnovatch has five goals and six assists on the year while Mansfield has contributed four goals and three assists so far.
On the defensive end, junior Sara Yunez has nicely stepped into the shoes of graduated goalkeeper, Audra Larson. The junior and her defense have only given up six goals on the year, and none in the last five games. The Falcons shut out half of their opponents in the year up to this point. Albright looks to upset the Falcons at Shoemaker field– the Lions are off to an impressive start in conference play with a 3-0-1 record.
For the men’s team, the tide has turned from last season. For the first time in 18 years, Messiah men’s soccer was not in the NCAA Tournament last fall. However, this year’s outcome is headed in a different direction.
The Falcons sit on top of the MAC Commonwealth on their usual perch and are still undefeated on the year. Head Coach Brad McCarty and the Falcons are on a five-game winning streak, in which they only allowed one goal. Two of those wins were against top 25 opponents: a 1-0 at Shoemaker Field over then #21 rival Elizabethtown College in the Marshmallow Bowl, and a 4-0 thrashing of then #11 Washington and Lee in Lexington, VA.
Jacob Bender, Kirby Robbins and Colby Thomas lead the attack for Messiah, with 18, 16 and 15 points respectively. Bender, a third-team NSCAA All-American last year, made the switch from defender to midfielder and has excelled in his new role.
Robbins leads the team in goals with seven on the year, and underclassmen Nick West, Samuel Ruiz Plaza and Brit Haseltine have also contributed. Haseltine and Ruiz Plaza have three and four goals on the year respectively, and West has started all thirteen for the Falcons with two goals and five assists.
Connor Bell and the defense have only given up eight goals on the year. Bell has six shutouts on the year, four of which have come during the Falcons’ five-game winning streak. The Falcons look to extend that streak to seven against Albright who is currently last in the conference at 0-4.
Come show your support for men’s and women’s soccer this Homecoming Weekend! Go Falcons!
Willie J. Hope, III, coming to you live.