SAN ANTONIO — Messiah is now the proud owner of a 10th NCAA Division III Championship.
But the Falcons had to fight for the title, as they edged the scrappy Rutgers-Camden Scarlet Raptors in a 2-1 double-overtime battle Saturday night at Toyota Field.
Messiah’s fourth NCAA crown in five years – and second consecutive – was secured as junior midfielder Jeremy Payne, the 2012 NSCAA Player of the Year, fired in a goal during the 104th minute of play.
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“It is just unreal,” Payne said, on winning the championship. “I remember, before I was even a Messiah player, I would watch the games going into overtime, the whole team storming the field, and interacting with alumni and our fans.”
Messiah, playing in its 10th NCAA final since 2000, defeated Ohio Northern 5-1 in the 2012 championship held at San Antonio’s Blossom Soccer Stadium.
Falcons fifth-year head coach Brad McCarty, himself a Messiah graduate, also picked up a fourth championship during his tenure.
“The experience of playing teams similar to them was helpful,” McCarty said of his championship opponent. “I asked the guys to be disciplined, both offensively and defensively, and emotionally. I thought, for the most part, they did a good job with that. We knew Rutgers-Camden would play with emotion, and they play with a lot of grit and fight. That’s a critical part of their game, and we needed to be able to handle it.”
The championship game, played during unseasonably cold San Antonio weather (temperatures in the 30s) started as Falcons junior midfielder Brian Ramirez scored in the 12th minute, on an assist from Payne.
The equalizer, though, came from Scarlet Raptors senior defender Taylor McGrory in the 79th minute, on a solo shot.
Rutgers-Camden senior goalkeeper Mike Randall posted seven saves in the match-up, while Messiah junior Brandon West had six.
Messiah, which shut out Williams 4-0 in the semifinals, led Rutgers-Camden 32-18 in total shots, and held a slight 9-7 edge in shots on goal.
Tim Oswald, in his eighth season as head coach of Rutgers-Camden, guided the Scarlet Raptors to their first semifinal and championship games.
“It was a great recap of a tremendous season,” Oswald said, whose Scarlet Raptors finished up at 23-1-2. “That is the way it is supposed to be in a final, two great programs, two great teams, all playing for one goal. Unfortunately, we came up just short of that goal. We chased the game, but didn’t do enough to win it.”
The night before, Rutgers-Camden took out Loras 3-2 in another overtime skirmish. Senior midfielder Keegan Balle, who transferred from Bradley, launched a 75-yard rocket to clinch a berth for the Scarlet Raptors in the championship game.
Messiah junior forward Jack Thompson was named the Outstanding Offensive Player of the tournament. The Outstanding Defensive Player of of the tournament honors went to McGrory.
Ramirez, who scored two goals and made one assist in the tournament, also was selected for the all-tournament team, as were senior midfielder Sheldon Myer and junior defender Carter Robbins.
In addition to McGrory, sophomore forward Mike Ryan, senior midfielder Mitch Grotti, and junior defender Joe Auleta were the Rutgers-Camden all-tournament honorees.