Raptors' storybook season ends in double OT in title game
SAN ANTONIO, Texas. (Dec. 7, 2013) – Storybook seasons aren’t supposed to end like this.
Messiah College junior midfielder Jeremy Payne (Middleburg, PA/Midd-West) drilled the national championship-winning shot into the goal 3:30 into the second overtime period off a perfect cross from senior forward Joshua Wood (Kingsport, TN/Sullivan South), lifting the Falcons to a 2-1 victory and handing Rutgers University-Camden its only loss of the season in the NCAA Division III men’s soccer title game here Saturday night.
For Messiah, it was their second consecutive national championship and their 10th Division III crown since 2000. The Falcons, who finished the season at 24-1-1, are a perfect 10-for-10 mark in Division III national title games.
Rutgers-Camden, which was making the program’s first appearance ever in the national championship game, ends its record-setting season with a 23-1-2 record. The loss snapped the Scarlet Raptors’ 11-game winning streak, which tied a program mark they set while opening the season with 11 victories.
It also was Rutgers-Camden’s first defeat since a 4-3 overtime loss at Montclair State University on Sept. 29, 2012. Since that time, the Scarlet Raptors had gone 32-0-5, a 37-game unbeaten streak which ranks as the eighth-longest string in Division III men’s soccer history.
“I have a lot of respect for Messiah,” said Scarlet Raptors Head Coach Tim Oswald, who completed his eighth season with a 122-39-22 career record at Rutgers-Camden. “Two teams wanted the national championship. One is going to win it and one is not.
“It was a great recap to a tremendous season. Two great teams. We chased the game and got a tie. Messiah beat us in transition on a great goal.”
That great goal came after Wood took the ball to the end line on the right side and made a perfect cross in the box to Payne, whose quick strike put a sudden end to the Scarlet Raptors’ remarkable season.
“It’s just unreal,” Payne said. “It’s awesome.”
Facing a legendary program that has never lost in a NCAA championship game, Rutgers-Camden watched the Falcons dominate most of the first half, continually applying pressure on the Raptor defense while out-shooting Rutgers-Camden, 12-7, in the opening 45 minutes. The Raptors were aided by one huge save from senior goalie Mike Randall (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) and a few dangerous Messiah chances that were off the mark, including two by Wood.
Messiah caught the game’s first break when junior midfielder Brian Ramirez (San Cristobal, Guatemala/Home School) took a shot from 25 yards out. It deflected off the head of a Raptor defender and inside the right post, giving the Falcons a 1-0 lead. Payne collected an assist on the play.
“If you don’t shoot, you’re not going to score,” Ramirez said. “Every time I shoot, I’m thinking to put it on frame. It was a hard-fought game between both teams.”
Messiah had a 4-2 edge in corner kicks in the first half, while junior goalie Brandon West (East Hampton, NY/East Hampton) made a pair of saves.
“I think Rutgers-Camden was a little tentative in the beginning, but with about 15 minutes left in the first half, I think the tide changed and it carried over to the second half,” said Messiah Head Coach Brad McCarty. “I thought Rutgers-Camden played really well in the second half. In overtime, I thought we really played well.”
The Scarlet Raptors barely missed tying the game in the 51st minute when sophomore forward Mike Ryan (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) one-timed a header from senior midfielder Keegan Balle (Naperville, IL/Neuqua Valley) and sent a shot just wide of the right post.
The Falcons, meanwhile, had a few golden chances to find an insurance goal, including a great chance in the box by Wood that was broken up by senior back Bobby Foster (Burlington, NJ/Burlington Township) and a laser just over the top left corner by Wood.
For the second day in a row, it was senior back Taylor McGrory (Collingswood, NJ/Sterling) who came up with a huge game-tying goal in the waning minutes. With 11:07 remaining in regulation, the ball slipped past the Messiah defense to McGrory on the left side of the box. He angled toward the left post and fired a left-footed shot into the net to tie the game at 1-1. It was his second goal of the season – the first came with 2:30 remaining in overtime in Friday night’s semifinal game to tie Loras, 2-2, and give the Raptors their opportunity to win on a Balle goal in overtime.
“We didn’t take our foot off the peddle at all,” said McGrory of the adversity of trailing a perennial champion like Messiah. “We just battled through it.”
In the first overtime, the Falcons had three great opportunities when junior forward Jack Thompson (Hudson, OH/CVCA) hit a shot from the left side into the outside left panel, and with one minute remaining in the period, two dangerous shots by Wood and Ramirez were deflected in the box before the Scarlet Raptors cleared the ball.
In the first minute of the second overtime, a header by Payne went barely over the crossbar. A couple minutes later, Payne’s goal ended the season with a title for the Falcons and a heart-breaking loss for the Scarlet Raptors.
Messiah finished with a 32-18 advantage in shots and a 4-3 edge in corner kicks. Randall made seven saves for the Raptors, while West had six for the Falcons.
“Going to the Elite Eight during my sophomore year showed what it takes to get there,” said Rutgers-Camden senior midfielder Mitch Grotti (Milmay, NJ/Millville), who closed his stellar four-year Raptor career as the program’s all-time leader in games (93), goals (47), game-winning goals (19) and points (118). “From Day One this season, we had a goal to win the national championship.”
The Scarlet Raptors came closer to that goal than any team in program history, but the team’s storied season didn’t quite have a storybook ending.
“We let up a bad goal early in the game, but we just kept chasing the game,” Oswald said. “We go to double overtime in the national championship game and we don’t win. The goal is to get back.”
Kevin Cavers, Loras
Johnny Rummerhart, Loras
Geoff Danilack, Williams
Mohammed Rashid, Williams
Taylor McGrory, Rutgers-Camden – Most Outstanding Defensive Player
Mitch Grotti, Rutgers-Camden
Mike Ryan, Rutgers-Camden
Joe Auleta, Rutgers-Camden
Jack Thompson, Messiah – Most Outstanding Offensive Player
Brian Ramirez, Messiah
Sheldon Myer, Messiah
Carter Robbins, Messiah