Two names can be added to the list of national champion female soccer players from Lebanon County.
Lydia Ewing from Palmyra, a graduate of Mt. Calvary Christian School in Elizabethtown, and Northern Lebanon alum Brianna Seip from Jonestown helped Messiah win the NCAA Div. III championship Saturday in Greensboro, N.C.
No. 1 ranked Messiah won its sixth title and first since 2012 with a 1-0 win over No. 2 William Smith. The Falcons finished the season 22-1-3 and avenged their only loss of the season.
“It was amazing. Just getting to the national championship game was so exciting,” Ewing said Sunday night upon returning to Messiah. “None of the players on our team had ever won a national championship before, Our seniors reached the final as freshmen but lost on penalty kicks. There was a lot of pressure, but it was so much fun. I’m very happy for our seniors for them to end their careers with a win and grateful for the opportunity.”
Ewing and Seip join a list of local national champs that includes Cedar Crest grads Haleigh Echard and B.J. Atkins and Elco alum Sarah Hibshman. Atkins scored the only goal in Messiah’s first NCAA title win in 2005, with Hibshman also being a key member of that team. Echard won a Div. I championship with Penn State.
Two other Crest alums, Alex Burrows and Maddy Brown, reached the NCAA Div. II quarterfinals this weekend with Bloomsburg, but saw their season end with a 2-1 loss Sunday at the College of Saint Rose.
Another Crest grad, Delaney Cole, was a national runner up with Messiah in 2016. She was also named National Player of the Year last year, before graduating and joining the coaching staff at Delaware Valley.
The Messiah Falcons have always been known for their stingy defense. In goal this year was Ewing, a junior who capped a spectacular Final Four weekend with her team’s 19th shutout of the season. In 26 games this season, Messiah allowed 8 goals for a goals against average of 0.325.
“I’m not sure how many shutouts I got credit for, because I sometimes came out in the second half during the season,” Ewing said.
She was never better than in the semifinals Friday against Carnegie Mellon. Messiah scored a second half goal to tie the game at 1-1 and send it into overtime and eventually penalty kicks.
Out of four penalty kicks Ewing faced, she saved three of them, which was phenomenal.
“Penalty kicks had been our nemesis,” Ewing said. “This team had lost on penalty kicks every year in the NCAAs. Messiah had lost on Pks every year for the past five. We worked on them in practice every week. I started getting pretty good at analyzing body movement and anticipating where shots were going to go.”
Seip, a freshman forward, logged 27 minutes in the final and had one shot on goal. In previous games this season, she had six goals and an assist, including a goal in a 6-1 win over Lebanon Valley at Messiah. In goal for LVC was NL grad Serena Donmoyer.
“Brianna was a very important player off the bench,” Ewing said. “She came in with a lot of energy and just ran at people and pressured the ball. This championship was a total team effort. Our seniors’ leadership was a big part of our success.”
With the victory, Messiah earned its sixth National Championship in program history. Messiah previously won titles in 2005, ’08, ’09, ’11, and ’12.
With their sixth title, the Falcons broke a tie with UC San Diego for the most women’s soccer championships in NCAA Division III history. The Falcons stand alone with six. Additionally, the Falcons were runners up in ’02, ’07, ’10 and ’16.