April 10, 2012

Messiah Finishes Strong, Downs Blue Jays

from press release

GRANTHAM, Pa. -- Messiah College scored four of the game's final five goals in a match-up with Elizabethtown College on Tuesday, defeating their Commonwealth foes by the score of 13-10. Senior Rachel Dirksenscored five goals and collected three assists for the Falcons, while Taylor Phillips and Kelsey Luck combined for 11 saves between the pipes.

Messiah-- recently ranked #9 in the IWLCA Top 20 Poll--  overcame early deficits of 3-1 and 5-3 to knot the game at 5-5 entering the intermission. The hosts outscored the Blue Jays 8-5 in the second half to move to 2-0 in the Commonwealth, and 9-2 overall.
"Our focus is always on the present moment," Falcons head coach Heather Greer said, reflecting on her team's early deficits. "We're not just playing to win the game—we're playing to be great in every moment. So sometimes, you can't look at the scoreboard and you have to just focus on the next ball."
Trailing 5-3 with just under six minutes remaining in the first half, Messiah received a goal from each of their two leading scorers, junior Cecilia Kjellman and Dirksen. Elizabethtown, undeterred from Messiah's offensive response, continued to pressure the Falcons' defense in scoring three of the first four goals of the second half.  Dirksen, however, regained the momentum for Messiah by winning subsequent face-off and sprinting towards the goal to assist sophomore Lizzy Keeney on a goal—just eight seconds after the Blue Jays' last score.
Dirksen would score another goal of her own a few minutes later to tie the score once again. Messiah then took the lead, 9-8, on a free-position score by junior Kiersten McGreer.
Though Elizabethtown's Leigh Flounlacker would even the score just under twelve minutes left to play, Dirksen would score or assist on three of the Falcons' final four goals as Messiah ran away late for the Commonwealth win. Elizabethtown's final goal would come with 1:28 to play to bring the score to 11-10 before the Falcons scored twice in the final minute.
The victory felt especially satisfying for the Falcons, still feeling the sting of previous losses to Franklin & Marshall Catholic and Catholic University.  In both those games, the Falcons found themselves on the wrong end of thrilling finishes. On Tuesday, Messiah was determined to experience the victors' spoils.
"We've really been working hard on being smart and finishing well," Greer said, referencing her team's growth from their losses to F&M and Catholic. "We certainly played today with a fire in our belly, saying to ourselves that 'we wouldn't let this one get away.' We were resilient and we were mentally tough."
The Falcons, arguably one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the region, were once again led by a tremendous performance by their defense. Senior Rachel Coyle and junior Maddie Comfort provided relentless pressure on the Blue Jays' attack, primarily that of Flounlacker. The Blue Jays' leading scorer with 32 goals on the season scored two goals on Tuesday.
"We're always playing against great players, and she's one of them," Greer said of Flounlacker. "She's a great shooter and finisher. RC (Coyle) and Maddie did a great job on her, and our defense as a whole really anticipated well."
"Kelsey did a great job in the cage, too," Greer continued, referring to Luck's six saves after being inserted with 25:11 to play. "It's hard to hop in there with no warm-up. She's very talented, which means that we have two goalies (Luck and Phillips) that we can really count on."
In complimenting Dirksen's outstanding performance, Keeney and Kjellman each scored two goals. Comfort, junior Gabrielle Hamelryck, and senior Meghan Doolittle each scored one goal, respectively.  
Messiah will next play on Saturday, April 14, when they host FDU-Florham for a 1:00 p.m. start on Anderson Field.

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