By WESLEY HOST
The Mary Washington men’s soccer team lost an overtime game on Saturday to Messiah College, 2-1. The visiting Falcons are the 11th ranked team in Division III this season and the defending Division III champions, but UMW was not intimidated. Messiah College came out aggressive, and Mary Washington matched their intensity throughout the game.
“We came out strong and kept the intensity up,” freshman defender David Heller said.
There was no scoring in the first half but plenty of heart-stopping opportunities. Freshman defender Kevin Murphy ripped a shot from just inside the 18-yard line, but the ball was deflected away by Falcons sophomore goalkeeper Jake Berry.
UMW threatened on multiple occasions early in the game with corner kicks and throw-ins in front of the Messiah goal, but the Eagles failed to capitalize. Overall, Messiah outshot Mary Washington 17-9, and the Falcons had a six-to-two corner kicks advantage as well.
The defense excelled in the first half. Sophomore goalkeeper Alec Constantine protected the goal and turned away several shots from the aggressive Messiah offense. Constantine kept a clean sheet for the first half and anchored the defense to prevent UMW from falling behind early.
But Constantine didn’t do it alone, as the Eagles defenders did a good job keeping him in a good position. On one Messiah advance, UMW senior Tyler Herold went airborne to head the ball out from congestion in the box, preventing a dangerous opportunity for the Falcons. The Eagles kept on the offensive to end the half but Messiah College stood strong on defense in their own right. The teams went into the locker room all squared at 0-0.
With 20 minutes remaining in the second half, Mary Washington was on the offensive when the ball got to the feet of junior forward Will Gallop. Gallop took the ball into traffic and ripped it just outside of the 18-yard line. The ball elevated over the defenders and dipped just underneath the crossbar in the top left corner of the goal, out of the reach of sprawled-out Messiah goalkeeper Berry.
The goal awoke the Battlegrounds crowd, as students and parents visiting for family weekend really got into the game from that point forward. “Olé” chants rang out and fences rattled from fans pounding on them with joy. The intensity of the game elevated from there, as the Eagles tried to increase their lead and complete the upset while Messiah fought to get the equalizing goal.
Towards the end of the match, Mary Washington could taste victory, but that taste was washed out by Messiah’s bitter mouthwash. With just 28 seconds remaining in regulation, Falcons senior midfielder Nick Thomson netted a left-footed strike on the left side of the goal to tie the game up at 1-1 and force overtime.
With three minutes left in the first overtime period, Falcons junior forward Kent Ramirez connected with his right and put the ball past the outstretched hands of Constantine for the game-winning goal.
Even though fans and players were crushed by the loss, it is still a great building block for at team where 17 of the 27 players are either freshmen or sophomores.
“We played with a lot of heart,” UMW coach Roy Gordon said. “Messiah had a lot of possession, and we made a mistake at the end and they got one.”
It was the team’s first loss of the season, though they do remain undefeated in conference play. Being able to compete with non-conference powerhouses like Messiah proves to the Eagles that they have the talent and ability to compete with anyone on the Division III level. The Eagles will next play a home match on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m. against Hampden-Sydney College.