By: Andrew Korba
SAN ANTONIO--The No. 5 Ohio Northern men's soccer team fell by a 5-1 score to No. 1 Messiah (Pa.) in the NCAA III Tournament Championship on Saturday afternoon at Blossom Soccer Field in San Antonio, Texas.
Messiah concludes their season with a 23-0-2 record, while Northern finishes at 25-3-0.
The title is the ninth for the Falcons in program history, and fourth in the last five seasons.
Senior Cameron Johnson scored the lone goal for the Polar Bears at the 53:26 mark.
The Polar Bears had three players named to the All-Tournament team in freshman Shintaroh Itoh, Bascom and Windsor.
Messiah struck early at the 5:23 mark, when Brian Ramirez drained a free kick from just outside the box over senior goalie Mac Church and into the net.
The Falcons stayed on the attack and netted a goal in the ninth minute, when Joshua Wood found Mike Kovach who drilled the ball into the lower left corner to make it 2-0.
"Messiah did a good job at keeping it at their end," said head coach Brent Ridenour. "They did not let us get into our flow. The next thing you know, we were down 2-0."
ONU looked to respond in the 13th minute, when Windsor sent a free kick into the box, but Falcon goalie Brandon West made a nice stop over the leaping ONU strikers.
Messiah would not let up and tacked on another goal at the 15:50 mark, when Jack Thomspon sent a ball into the box that Carter Robbins headed into the net.
The Falcons were not done and added another goal for a 4-0 lead at the 18:46 mark, when Jeremy Payne found himself all alone and beat the keeper.
The Polar Bears continued to attack, but they were unsuccessful and went into the half trailing 4-0.
The second half saw the Falcons attempt two corner kicks early on.
The first attempt was unsuccessful and the second try saw Luke Helmuth fire a shot that Church was able to save.
Messiah continued to attack and Wood found a streaking Payne who beat Church to give the Falcons a 5-0 lead in the 49th minute.
Johnson then put ONU on the board in the 53rd minute with his 13th goal of the season.
The Polar Bears continued to attack and Johnson fired a shot that went wide in the 66th minute.
Moments later, the Polar Bears saw a corner kick bounce around in the box and freshman Keegan Ross fired a shot that was blocked by the Falcon defense.
ONU continued to attack and sophomore Michael Grossnickle fired a shot that was blocked in the 79th minute.
"I am proud that we didn't quit," Ridenour added. "We kept on pushing and pushing until the very end. We kept on attacking and that is all I could of asked for."
Church made four saves on the afternoon and ends his season at 25-3-0.
West made one save for the Falcons and improves to 23-0-2 on the year.
Messiah took 23 shots, compared to 15 for Northern.
The Falcons also owned the advantage in for shots on goal, 9-2.
ONU held the advantage in corner kicks, 11-9.
The Polar Bear close the book on a season to remember.
The team made their first appearance in program history in the Final Four and NCAA Championship.
In addition, the 25 victories on the season set a school record.
Northern scored 86 goals on the year, which is a new school record.
The Polar Bears also recorded 15 shutouts on the season and had a streak of seven consecutive shutouts to begin OAC play, which are both new records.
"We seem to always outdue ourselves every season," Ridenour said. "I am extremely proud of all our guys. This group of seniors has helped lead our program to where it is today."