SAN ANTONIO, TX -- A different level.
That's where Williams College men's soccer coach Mike Russo put Messiah College after the Falcons ended his Ephs season in the national semifinals Friday, 4-0 in front of a crowd of 173 at Toyota Field.
"They're an outstanding team," he noted of Messiah, which will play for its eighth national title in 10 years Saturday against Rutgers-Camden. "They set the standard. We thought we could control the midfield by showing a more physical presence, but we were unable to do that."
Messiah (23-1-1) scored twice in the first 29 minutes of the game and added two more goals in the second half to send the Ephs home with a 15-7 final record. Williams was outshot 25-11 in the contest.
The opening 15 minutes played in favor of Williams, which found itself down 1-0 nonetheless.
The Ephs had the first half-chance on goal, as Matt Muralles found himself with enough space to squeeze off a left-footed curling shot that Falcons' keeper Brandon West is unable to get his fingers to but managed to not hook into the top-left corner of the goal.
Messiah's first goal came inside of eight minutes off their very first chance of the game. Brian Ramirez received a ball about 25 yards away from goal on the right side of the Falcons attack. Ramirez then dribbled toward the penalty area before firing a shot toward Peter Morrell's goal, deflecting off an Eph defender, wrong-footing Morrell and rendering him incapable of effectively parrying the ball away from the back of the net.
"That seemed to deflate us a little bit more than I thought it would," Russo said. "The first 15 minutes I thought we played very well and had more of the ball and two or three shots just missed, which is why I thought we might bounce back better than we did after they scored their first goal."
Eleven minutes later, it was the Falcons again as they searched for a chance to double their lead. Jack Thompson finds himself all alone on the left side of the penalty area, where he receives a beautiful cross-field pass, takes a touch to settle the ball, and fires a half-volley toward goal, right into the arms of Morrell.
Ten minutes later, the Falcons found their second goal, as Mike Kovach races down the right wing on a counter-attack, before sending in a beautiful out-swing cross to the back post, where Jeremy Payne connects his head to the ball, burying his header into the back of the net past the outstretched arms of Morrell.
The second half started out brightly for Williams as well, but once again, Messiah stood tall. The Ephs earn a corner from the right-hand side in the 47th minute, a position from which the Ephs have scored multiple times during the tournament. Conder's in-swinging ball, however, is taken out of the air by keeper Brandon Wood.
The Ephs looked closer to finding their first goal of the game six minutes later as Chris Seitz plays an intelligent one-two with Mohammed Rashid before sending a ball across the face of the goal that only just eludes the head of Matt Kastner.
The Falcons, however, stretched their lead to three goals five minutes later off of a corner on the left side. Ramirez sends in an in-swinging cross to the far side of the six-yard box, where Carter Robbins is waiting to send his header back across the face of the goal and into the left panel of the goal.
Just for insurance, the Falcons collected their fourth goal of the evening six minutes later in the 64th minute. Joshua Wood fakes out an Eph defender and ends up one-on-one with Morrell, firing a shot that Morrell parries away from the goal, but it falls kindly to Danny Brandt who curls a gorgeous right-footed shot around Morrell.
UPDATE: Mohammed Rashid and back Geoff Danilack were both selected to the Final Four's All-Tournament Team.