ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. --- Messiah clinched an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament with a 2-0 victory over Elizabethtown in the championship game of the Commonwealth Conference playoffs Saturday afternoon. With the loss, Etown falls to 13-7-1 overall and Messiah, ranked 19th in the nation, improves to 16-2 overall.
Messiah outshot Etown 13-8 over the course of the 90 minute seesaw battle which saw many scoring opportunities get halted by the defenses of both teams. Messiah converted its first scoring opportunity when Emily Benson (Succasunna, NJ/Roxbury) headed in a direct kick by Sara Strzepek (Mattituck, NY/Mattituck) just under ten minutes into the game.
From that point, the game was scoreless as Etown goaltender Jackie Shoustal (Reading, PA/Exeter Township) halted the Falcons' scoring attempts with nine saves, and Messiah goaltender Maggie Futato (Mechanicsburg, PA/Cumberland Valley) made three saves.
Messiah's second goal came in the game's final minute, after Elizabethtown pulled the goaltender at the end of the 86th minute in an effort to boost offensive production and tie the game. A kick by Strzepek dribbled its way into the vacant net with 57 seconds remaining to put the Falcons ahead 2-0.
At Elizabethtown, Pa.
Commonwealth Conference Championship Game
Messiah 2, Elizabethtown 0
Messiah (16-2) 1 1 2
Elizabethtown (13-7-1) 0 0 0
MCEmily Benson (Sara Strzepek), 9:46
Shots: MC 13, EC 8. Corners: MC 8, EC 1. Yellow Cards: MC 0, EC 1. Goalie Saves: Danielle Warden (MC) 0, Maggie Futato (MC) 3, Jackie Shoustal (EC) 9, Rachel Chieppa (EC) 0.