Messiah Rallies Twice for Historic, Thrilling Win in Nat'l Semi
Messiah men's soccer wrote a new chapter in their storied history on Friday night, and it's one you won't soon forget.
No. 5 Messiah overcame two separate deficits against No. 20 Brandeis and captured a thrilling—and truly stunning—3-2 win in double-overtime in the National Semifinal. Adam Cole, Kirby Robbins, and Justin Brautigam each scored, with Brautigam's winner in the 105' ending a match that may will rank among the best in Messiah lore.
Messiah's win sent them into the National Championship for the 11th time in program history where they will take on North Park. The Vikings advanced over Chicago in the other Semifinal 0-0 (2OT, 7-6 PK). Saturday's title match will start at 7:00 p.m.
The Falcons and Judges each collected five shots in the first-half, though Messiah had the better of territory and chances. But perhaps the best chance for each team came seconds apart in the 26' when Brandies slotted a ball into the Falcons' box that Shay Quintin missed on a slide. That left Connor Bell by himself with Evan Glass racing on from the 18, and Bell made a great slide punch it away. Seconds later Messiah was on the counter by way of a long serve down the left sideline for Nick West.
West raced behind his defender and headed a high bounce down into the box, and he came together with keeper Ben Woodhouse 10 yards out from the left post. West had no time to change his angle, and his shot went into the gut of Woodhouse for the save.
First Goal(s) to Remember
Fifteen minutes into the second-half the game was still scoreless, but that all changed on a Brandeis corner kick from the left side. The in-swinger from Josh Ocel went to the far side where it was headed back to the middle by Patrick Flahive. A quick touch by Noah Gans sent it again toward the right post and Sam Vinson knocked it over the line for a 1-0 lead.
The goal for Vinson—a senior defender—was the first of his career. The goal put Messiah in a hole for the first time in five NCAA Tournament games this season.
Nevertheless, Messiah responded well to the deficit with two great looks over the next five minutes. The first of those came from Kirby Robbins 10 yards out, but his sliding and sweeping shot went wide of the left post. Moment later Brit Haseltine chipped a shot from 15 yards out that nicked off the same post and out of bounds.
In the 72' Messiah finally found the equalizer, and it was nothing short of dramatic. The play started of a free kick from 40 yards out, with Kirby Robbins playing quick and short to Shay Quintin on the left side. Quintin sent a long serve from the sideline toward the far post, and Woodhouse missed it on his running leap at the six-yard line. On the other side was first-year reserve Adam Cole, and he headed it through the open goal to knot the game at 1-1.
Like Vinson before him, the goal was the first of Cole's career.
Breakdown to Go Down
Despite losing their lead, Brandeis didn't fold; on the contrary, they continued to press, and they forced a Messiah breakdown with just over 10 minutes to play. Andrew Allen intercepted possession 50 yards out in the midfield and quickly created a break toward the box. His through pass went into the right side of the box for Colin Panarra, and he went to the line before sending a serve across the turf that Glass and Josh Bender both went for in atop the goal box. But both of those players missed the touch, and that left Allen alone on his run for an open look on frame; Connor Bell was alone and unable to stop the hard strike from Allen, and Brandeis was again in front.
Robbins to the Rescue
The Judges had little time to celebrate—and Messiah fans had little time to weep—as the Falcons tallied another electrifying equalizer just 40 seconds later. Playing off the restart the Falcons generated a long serve from the left side, but Woodhouse punched it out to the midfield. Messiah turned immediately to the right side, and Colby Thomas beat his man to the end line for a long serve over the box. Nick West was on the far side for a header to the middle, and Kirby Robbins put a sidekick on the high bounce that rocketed into the goal.
The tally for Robbins was his team-leading 15th of the season.
The teams eventually moved into a first overtime period, and Brandeis earned a corner with less than seven minutes to play. Connor Bell made a great leaping punch on the serve, but a Judges' foul gave Messiah the ball regardless. That proved to be the best chance by Brandeis in the extra sessions, and the Falcons found their (third) moment of brilliance in the last possible period.
As the clocked ticked under six minutes, Kirby Robbins attacked from the right side toward the box. He was pushed toward the midfield, and dribbled square across the box before finding Justin Brautigam on the left side. He took a touch and saw space, and launched an arching shot from 24 yards out that went over the leap of Woodhouse and under the crossbar for a stunning game-winner.
The Judges fell to the turf in disbelief while Messiah raced on the field in celebration. The winner capped an incredible performance for the Falcons that saw them overcome two separate deficits in an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in program history. Of note, this was also only the 10th time in 103 NCAA Tournament games that Messiah even allowed two goals to an opponent.
Messiah's golden goal win in the Tournament was also their 14th in program history.
In the Box
Woodhouse finished with four saves for Brandeis while Bell picked up two saves in a great effort for Messiah, despite the two goals allowed. Messiah also outshot the Judges 21-10, although the margin was just 7-4 in shots on goal.
As mentioned, the Falcons will now face the North Park Vikings in the National Championship on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. This marks the Vikings' first-ever appearance in the NCAA final, and it will also mark Messiah's first-ever match with North Park.