|James Dillon||Patrick R. Daly|
YORK, Pa. – Making its first appearance in an NCAA Division III quarterfinal match in 29 years, The University of Scranton men’s soccer team could not solve top-ranked and perennial national power Messiah College, falling to the Falcons, 3-0, on Sunday afternoon at Graham Field on the campus of York College.
The Royals (17-3-2) were making their fifth trip to the Elite Eight and first since 1983 when they made the last of four straight trips to the Final Four. The loss marked just the third time this season that Scranton gave up multiple goals and it was their first defeat by more than one goal.
Messiah, which is ranked No. 1 in both the D3soccer.com and National Soccer Coaches Association of America polls, took a 1-0 lead into halftime after a goal by sophomore midfielder Brian Ramirez (San Cristobal, Guatemala/Homeschool) in the 25th minute when his shot struck the right post and deflected in. The Falcons (21-0-2) held a commanding 9-0 edge in shots in the opening 45 minutes.
Scranton tried to turn the tide early in the second half, but the Falcons put a firm grip on the Final Four berth when sophomore midfielder Mike Kovach (Odenton, Md./Arundel) scored in the 57th minute for a 2-0 lead after the Falcons built up possession at the top of the box before Kovach connected from six yards out on the left side.
Senior forward Patrick R. Daly (Lebanon, N.J./Immaculata) had a good chance to cut into the lead with just over 10 minutes to play, but his header was tipped over the crossbar by the Falcons keeper. Messiah added a third goal in the 84th minute.
The Royals, who are ranked 25th in the most recent D3soccer.com poll, finished with six shots and just two on goal. Messiah held a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.
Senior goalkeeper James Dillon (Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown East) made five saves in the loss. He posted a 14-2-2 record this season and finishes his career with an 18-11-5 career mark.
Scranton’s 17 wins are its most since the Royals went 18-2-4 in 1990, and the NCAA Tournament appearance was their first since 1993. It was also the program’s best season in head coach Matt Pivirotto’s 14 years as head coach.
Messiah (21-0-2) advances to its 12th Final Four in school history. The Falcons have won eight national titles, with the most recent coming in 2009, the last of three straight national titles.