Pfautz leads Messiah to conference title Freshman from Ephrata named Offensive Player of the Year
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
, Staff Writer
Messiah College had reached the point in the field hockey game Saturday where the Falcons needed someone to deliver a spark.
Trailing host Elizabethtown, 2-0 in the second half of the Commonwealth Conference championship game, Messiah was in danger of not only losing the title game but a berth in the NCAA Tournament as well.
Someone had to step up, and that person was none other than freshman Moriah Pfautz. Nine minutes into the second half, Ephrata High School’s all-time leading scorer got the Falcons on the board when she weaved through a pair of defenders to approach the cage before firing a shot over E-town keeper Marlena Johnson to cut into the deficit.
"I can’t necessarily speak for my teammates but it kind of relieved me that at least we got one back," Pfautz said of the goal. "(I was thinking) now the deficit was just one, and if we could get one more, we could go to overtime."
As it turned out, they would not need overtime, thanks to Pfautz.
After Celina Nissley scored to knot the game at 2-2 in the 59th minute, it was the former Ephrata star who got the gamewinner. With less than seven minutes to go in regulation, Emily Bower pushed a long pass to send Pfautz on a breakaway. Pfautz entered the circle and pulled left. Her diving shot beat Johnson, who had come out to meet her, and the ball clanked into the cage to give the Falcons the eventual 3-2 victory and the championship.
"That was a hustle goal," Messiah Coach and fellow Ephrata High School graduate Brooke Good said of the gamewinner. "She not only is the spark but she wants the ball on her stick when the game is on the line. You can’t teach that."
On scoring the gamewinner, Pfautz added, "It hasn’t really sunken in but it meant a lot to be the one to get it. That sounds really cliche’ but it meant a lot to me because I realized I can really play at this level. And as a freshman coming in, I never really expected to be playing this much so that was quite an honor, and then to get the game-winning goal for the championship was almost unreal."
Nothing surprises Good about Pfautz, her prized recruit from her hometown who earned Most Valuable Player honors of the Conference Tournament.
"I got to tell you I knew she was a special athlete in high school, and to watch her develop in four years was a really neat experience," Good said. "I just knew she was special. And for her to come in and make a phenomenal impact, not only in our conference but within the division really speaks to the type of athlete and work ethic that she does have. I’ve been very pleased."
Pfautz said she entered the season not knowing what kind of impact she could make as a freshman. Turns out, it was quite big.
She led the team in goals, scoring a whopping 23 on the year, not including her two on Saturday. She played and started 18 games for the Falcons. Her high mark was a four goal, one assist performance vs. Hood College in just her fourth collegiate game.
For her efforts, she was selected as the Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and was also named Rookie of the Year.
"In all honesty I wasn’t expecting all of that," Pfautz said. "I was extremely blessed to be named and to be honored in that way. I don’t think I could have made it to the level that I have today without my current coaches and the coaches that I’ve had at Ephrata. It’s just been a great year."
And according to Good, she is only scratching the surface of her potential.
"I look at her and I see four years, and I think what she can bring to this program, and really kind of put her fingerprint on this program," she said. "She has the tools to do that. It’s going to be a matter of pushing her and bringing people in that will continue to push her to keep getting better. She’s just a special kid with a lot of talent. I’m certainly not saying that to say I told you so, but I was hopeful. I knew there was a lot in there, and we are just touching the surface of her abilities and her talent."
Messiah (15-5) and Pfautz will look to keep rolling as the Falcons face Catholic University (13-5) in the first round of the Division Three NCAA Tournament Wednesday, 6 p.m. in Washington D.C.
The winner of the first round game will advance to the weekend’s four-team pod at Christopher Newport in Virginia Beach, Va.
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