A pitch for success
Lancaster County standouts help Messiah soccer teams to twin titles. By Greg Caldwell, Correspondent
It was a season of near-perfection for the Messiah College soccer teams this year, and a group of Lancaster-Lebanon League products played integral roles for the school's matched set of NCAA Division III national championship teams.
Sheldon and Bryant Myer (Manheim Central) and Danny Rowe (Lampeter-Strasburg) were part of the men's team that went undefeated on their way to the title. The women featured local players Trisha Tshudy (Lancaster Mennonite), Macaulay Soto (Warwick) and Hannah Weyland (Donegal), all of whom played big roles.
The men's team has been successful for many years, but this was the first championship for many of the current class of players.
"We believed we had a good and balanced team this year with a lot of confidence up top and in goal," said men's head coach Brad McCarty, who saw last year's team go in among the favorites, but lose its first tournament game.
The Falcons tied two games this season, against Oneonta and York College, but never suffered a loss, finishing 23-0-2. They won the national semifinal 1-0 over Loras College in overtime before easily handing Ohio Northern 5-1 to win the title. Both games with York went down to the wire, with the game in the playoffs going to penalty kicks, where Messiah prevailed by a 4-2 score.
"York came back and scored two second-half goals to tie the game, but our goalie came up big on penalty kicks. York is one of the most competitive teams we face each year," said McCarty, who was named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Coach of the Year on Jan. 18.
While this was McCarty's third title as head coach -- to go with his five as an assistant -- he said this one was different. The team, he said, was truly stocked this year and had no holes to overcome.
McCarty praised the play of all three Lancaster athletes. Bryant Myer, a freshman, played a variety of positions for McCarty this year and scored four goals, including a game-winner. He also added six assists while coming up off the bench in the team's liberal substitution policy.
"He grew up for us and really shined this year," McCarty said. "I am excited at the chances he brings us next year."
Bryant's older brother, Sheldon, a junior, scored four goals and added one assist as a starting midfielder.
"Sheldon had an exceptional year. There was a marked difference from his past two years," McCarty said. "He raised the level of the team in the process and will be an integral part of next year's squad."
The elder Myer, meanwhile, said he felt like a more important part of the team.
"The team took on a mindset this year that every game was a big game," he said. "The team has such chemistry and discipline and we are so involved in each other's lives."
He also admitted that he and his brother have a healthy sense of competition, often pushing each other to do better.
"I played on the second team and we all get to have as much impact as the starters," Bryant Myer said. "I was glad I could make an impact so soon."
Rowe, a freshman, scored three goals and added an assist from the bench.
"Danny does many things well. He has the ability to turn and escape to get to places," McCarty said. "He had a time of transition to college, but was so much better when that happened."
The women's team, meanwhile, was almost as good as the men, finishing 24-1-1, with its only blemishes a 2-1 loss to Emory University and a tie with William Smith College. The Falcons did get their revenge on Emory, earning a 1-0 win for the national championship. They also outscored their opponents by an incredible 90-6 margin, paced by NSCAA Player of the Year Alex Brandt.
Scott Frey, the women's head coach, said the expectation is always high for his program and the key is to be best at the end of the season. The Falcons did accomplish this, but were forced to overcome a big season-ending injury in the second game loss to one of their key players.
"We finally hit our stride in the NCAA playoffs. We adjusted where it was needed early and played well at the end," Frey said. "This championship was very different than my previous ones, because in each of those we felt like we had the best team on paper. This year's team was not as strong overall, but still found a way to win it at the end."
All three local players served key roles in Frey's liberal subbing attack. Weyland, a sophomore midfielder and back who recorded one assist, was big down the stretch.
"She is versatile and technically strong," Frey said. "She played big minutes in the Final Four and will be an integral part of next year's team."
Weyland said this year was different as there were 10 freshmen who all played big minutes.
"We had to teach these girls what Messiah is all about," she said. "It took us a little while to gel as a team, but our confidence grew and we had the mindset to play to the best of our ability by the end of the season."
Tshudy, a freshman forward, scored five goals, including two game winners, and also tallied six assists.
"Trish scored three or four early goals for us and then she faded some, but picked it up again at the end of the season," Frey said. "She holds the ball under pressure and will only get better with experience."
Soto, a freshman midfielder, scored three goals and added four assists off the bench.
"Macaulay got here and had a tough early adjustment to college. She played more as she gained confidence," Frey said. "She is a blast to watch and is so creative with the ball. I am sure she will make a big impact for years to come."
The title was Frey's fifth since arriving in 2005 -- and his second in a row and third in four years. The men's team has been to the final nine times since 2000, winning all nine.n