Eastern Rally Falls Short at Messiah

GRANTHAM, Pa.- In a mid-season meeting between MAC unbeatens, the Messiah College Falcons jumped to a five goal lead in the third quarter and held on for an 11-10 win over the visiting Eastern University Eagles. Dave Darling scored four times to lead the Eagles.

Messiah held a 2-0 lead through a sloppy first 14 minutes of play. The Falcons capitalized on a a pair of unsettled situations to claim the early edge. Matt Soldano halved the Falcon lead with an overhand shot from the right side of the crease with 23 seconds to play in the first period.

Messiah would have a chance with a man-up early in the second period, but Darling turned the tables with a remarkable man-down goal. After an errant Falcon pass went out of bounds at their own goal line, Darling had to bring the ball into play against a pair of Messiah poles. On his initial move, a Falcon defender checked the stick out of his hand, but Darling picked up the stick as he skipped between a pair of checks on his way to the crease. After a couple quick fakes he dumped the ball over the Messiah goalie for his first of the day.

One minute later Darling put the Eagles up with a rising shot that ticked the underside of the crossbar from 12 yards out. The 3-2 edge, however, was short-lived as the Falcons got another man-up chance and capitalized. The hosts scored twice more to grab a 5-3 lead with three minutes to play before AJ Ryan won a face-off and pushed the ball forward to Zac Ivy. Ivy drew the defense and dished to Darling who buried his third of the day.

Messiah held a slim 20-18 edgein first-half shots, and the face-off game was fairly even through the first thirty minutes. The hosts grabbed the momentum with two quick goals to start the second half.

"[Messiah Face-off guy, JJ ] Miller is really good, and when he won his face-offs he created things," stated Eastern Head Coach Brandon Childs, "he put his stamp on the game in the third period." Miller picked up the assist on the first goal and created the second to put the Falcons up 7-4. The Eagles found a goal to answer from Chris Farrar on a sneaky cut through the middle, but Miller answered with a goal directly off the face-off to restore the three-goal edge for the hosts.

The Falcons took advantage of another man-up situation to push their edge to 9-5 and Miller scored his third of the day to give the Falcons a five goal edge with four minutes to play in the third period.

The Eagles found a spark when Aaron Benz made a save and fired a perfect outlet to Joey Wilmot in transition. Wilmot, who was featured in Phillylacrosse.com this week, became the first upperclassman to register a point for the Eagles this spring as he raced all the way to the crease and slid his first goal of the year around Messiah goalie Zach Cureton.

The Eagles had a chance to score with a man-situation in the final 30 seconds of the period, but Cureton made an enormous save on a Darling shot from just off the edge of the crease. As they did in the third, the Falcons scored in the opening seconds of the fourth as Phil Wendt picked up the draw and caught the Eastern defense off balance.

Down 11-6, the Eagles picked up a new sense of urgency. After a Darling shot went wide, Will Johnson found Farrar in front of the net on an in-bounds play. Farrar made the tough catch and finished. Six minutes later, the two combined again to cut the deficit to 11-8 with five minutes to play. Wilmot grabbed a loose ball after a Messiah turnover and used his speed to unsettle the Falcons again, but this time the junior drew the action to himself and flipped the ball to Darling to cut the deficit to two.

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