After advancing the farthest it has in school history, the UR men’s soccer team fell, 1-2, to defending national champion Messiah College in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Division III tournament last Sunday, Nov. 22. The Falcons, who outshot UR, 19-4, in the matchup, capitalized on that offensive pressure in the 87th minute of play, when leading goal-scorer Geoff Pesson put the ball past senior goalie Michael Peacock.
Saturday’s matchup was not the first meeting between the two teams. In 2007, the Yellowjackets traveled to Grantham, Pa. to take on the Falcons in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, where it was shut out 0-6. Last fall, the Yellowjackets saw their title hopes dashed by the Falcons again that time, it was a 0-1 loss on their own turf after Messiah netted a goal in the fourth minute of play.
This year, it was the Yellowjackets who got on the board early. Just 11:44 into the first half, senior forward Scott Cady headed a pass from sophomore midfielder Jake Cargill past goalie Jared Clugston to give UR the lead. The goal was Cady’s 10th for the season a team-best.
But Messiah’s pressure turned out to be too much for the ‘Jackets, who were without a key cog in their defense in sophomore Ryan Charcolla, who went down in UR’s second-round game against SUNY Plattsburgh.
Ten minutes after Cady scored, Messiah responded. Pesson directed a ball on net and a Yellowjacket defender, in an attempt to clear the ball, deflected it past Peacock into the UR goal.
Peacock finished the game with four saves. It was just the third time this past year the senior goalie had allowed more than one goal in a game.
UR’s march into the round of eight capped off a season that included a number of accolades. Six ‘Jackets earned University Athletic Association honors this season, including three members of a UR defense that limited opponents to an average of 0.60 goals per game.
The Yellowjackets finished the regular season ranked No. 8 nationally according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America after tying for first place in the UAA and earned an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
After a first-round bye, UR defeated Plattsburgh on Nov. 15 to advance into the Sweet 16 for a matchup against Wesleyan University. It took two overtimes against 11th-ranked Wesleyan before Cargill netted a cross from sophomore forward Josh Richards to give UR a 2-1 win a victory that set up the rematch with the Falcons.
The Yellowjackets finished the season with a 14-2-3 overall record and will graduate eight seniors in the spring.
Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.