NCAA Division III

Division III championship recap: Messiah outlasts Rutgers-Camden in 2-1 overtime thriller

Photo: Courtesy of Messiah Athletics

A day after winning their Final Four matches, Messiah and Rutgers-Camden faced off Saturday night for the National Championship. It was the teams first match-up since 1974, when Rutgers-Camden was named Rutgers South Jersey, and the wait was well worth it. Tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes of play, Messiah would find the game-winner in the second overtime period to claim their fifth national title in six years.

First half

Only 43 seconds into the game, Rutgers-Camden found the first chance on frame with a free kick from 45 yards out. Keegan Balle, who scored Rutgers’ ridiculous 70 yard free kick game-winner on Friday, sent the ball on goal to force Brandon West to punch the ball over the crossbar.

However, Messiah pressured form there and found the lead in the 13th minute when, for the second straight day, Brian Ramirez’s opening goal came from a deflection. Ramirez gathered in Jeremy Payne’s pass, dribbled to the top of the box, and fired the ball towards the goal. His shot deflected off a defender and found the net before Rutgers-Camden goalkeeper Mike Randall could make the save.

“Whenever I have chances to shoot, I always think about putting it on frame,” Ramirez said of the early goal. “You just have take chances as they come to you, and [my shot] was the product of unselfish play by our team to set me up.”

After the goal, Messiah continued to pressure. But despite 12 first-half shots and many other attempts that were blocked or deflected, Messiah failed to find an insurance goal. Rutgers almost found the equalizer just before the half. In the 44th minute, Mike Grotti dribbled down the sideline and put his shot near post. Messiah goalkeeper Brandon West correctly read the line to make the save.

Second half

While Messiah’s passing went from clean to sloppy after the start of the second half, Rutgers physicality and scrappy play picked up as they pressured for the equalizer.

“We play in a feisty, gritty conference,” Rutgers-Camden head coach Tim Oswald said. “We play with passion, spirit, and pride. There wasn’t a red card tonight, and I know that sometimes we do get testy with the officials. But that’s the character of our league and our program. We do our best to reign it in and push forward, and tonight our guys did the job they needed to chase the game.”

That feistiness tormented Messiah’s defensive unit. Mike Ryan’s 66th minute shot went wide before Grotti’s attempt skied over the crossbar.

Less than ten minutes later, Rutger’s capitalized on a Messiah defensive mishap and tied the game when Carter Robbins misplayed a long pass from the midfield leaving Taylor McGrory wide open. West came off his line, but McGory dribbled towards the box and found the equalizer with 21 minutes left to play in regulation.

“I saw the miss on the ball and just ran through it,” McGrory said. “I took it and put it away, and sort of blacked out after seeing it go in.”

With the scoreline now at 1-1, both teams continued to battle for both possession and shots. In the 82nd minute, Messiah’s Jeremy Payne’s shot went wide and teammate Jack Thompson’s wide open shot sailed over the goal and out of play.

After ninety minutes of play that saw Messiah control most of the first half and Rutgers finding success in the second half, the game headed into overtime.

Overtime

Three minutes into extra time, West denied Rutgers-Camden’s Mitch Gotti from scoring the golden goal game-winner. From there, Messiah powered forward and fired six shots towards goal. However, none got past Rutger’s goalkeeper Randall, who made three tremendous save. Still level at 1-1, the game headed to a second 10 minute golden goal period.

In the second overtime period, Messiah had the first goalscoring opportunity but Payne’s header went over the crossbar. Four minutes later, Rutgers’ Julian Light quickly attacked but West had other plans and made the stop.

Just a minute later, Messiah’s Josh Wood dribbled down the near sideline and towards the endline. His cross found an open Payne. This time, he made no mistake to head home the game-winning goal. As the Falcon players celebrated their 10th national title, Messiah fans stormed the field. For Rutgers, they sat stunned, their undefeated season ended, their quest for their first national championship now over.

“It was unreal,” Payne said of the game-winning tally. “I remember watching Messiah before I was here as a player, and seeing Geoff Pezon win [the 2010 National Championship] with an overtime goal. I can remember thinking how that would feel. It’s awesome.”

With the victory, Messiah remains a perfect 10 for 10 in final appearances and have won five titles in six years. Messiah’s ten Division III titles ties them with Division I side St. Louis University for most national championships across all NCAA division’s men’s soccer programs.

Rutgers-Camden finishes with an overall record of 23-1-2, which is a program best, while Messiah finishes 24-1-1.

More recaps from Messiah Athletics, Rutgers-Camden Athletics, Examiner, D3Soccer.com, and NCAA.com. For a full replay of the game, NCAA.com has a click here.

11 Comments

  1. Thanks, Phil, for following the Div III program this year. Amazing that 2 ‘local’ teams ended up in the Final! Congrats to your Team!

  2. Phil Naegely says:

    Guido- Thank you for following along. Rutgers had a great first run to the championship this year and beat some tough teams.

  3. i was on the 1974 rutgers team that faced messiah. we were known as rutgers-camden at that time. it was years earlier when the campus was known as Rutgers College of South Jersey.

    • found a reference! “Rutgers College of South Jersey officially became Rutgers University, Camden College of Arts and Sciences when the Board of Governors approved the change on April 10, 1970.” from http://news.rutgers.edu/special-content/historic-overview-of-20100331 .

      • Phil Naegely says:

        Barry- Interesting to hear you were on that 1974 team. According to Messiah Athletics and their archives of the match, the college was still named Rutgers SJ. However, the archive could have incorrectly named RC by its former name in the stat sheet.

        Thank you though for bringing this to my attention.

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  5. Thanks for the coverage, Phil.

  6. Having watched the final live on-line, I tip my hat to both teams for laying it all out there that night. MC, congratulations on another amazing run. RC, keep your chin up and stick together.

    • Phil Naegely says:

      Just seeing this now Mark, but I agree totally with you. It was a hard fought win for Messiah. RC made history and is I think on their way to doing big things.

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