Messing nets hat trick, Wildcats down Arlington in final
WESTMINSTER — Twin Valley's Lucas Messing has a way of being in the right spot at the right time.
In Saturday morning's Division IV boys soccer state championship game against Arlington, Messing made his chances count, scoring a hat trick in the Wildcats 4-1 win at Bellows Falls Union High School.
The win clinched Twin Valley's first D-IV state title since 2014 and the fourth in program history.
Arlington scored its lone goal with 28 minutes, 21 seconds left to play in the first half when Lewis Whalen struck a perfect through ball to exchange student Alberto Lopez. Lopez made a great run and forced Wildcats keeper Jack Kehoe out of goal, giving him ample space to get a shot off for the lead.
Messing knotted the score seven minutes later in a scrum around the goal, where he found the ball on his foot from a rebound and put it home.
After the break, Messing was in the right spot again. Twin Valley took a hard shot and Arlington keeper Bryce Harrington dove to his left and got his hands on it, but Harrington couldn't secure the ball and Messing was there on the far post to send it home.
"The hustle on the rebounds was great. We preached time and time again throughout the season about knocking in rebounds," said Wildcats coach Buddy Hayford. "These are high school goalkeepers. They're going to make mistakes and they're going to leave garbage in front of the goal mouth. Lucas is a pest and he has a knack for the goal."
"Lucas is a hard-worker and he pushes really well forward," said Arlington coach Todd Wilkins. "We missed tackles on two of those goals that never should have happened, but you have to be able to adjust when those mistakes happen."
That go-ahead goal was deflating for the Eagles' side. Add in the loss of Matthew Ritchie due to a nagging injury in the second half and Arlington struggled to produce much of anything after the halftime break.
Twin Valley dominated possession and put constant pressure on the Eagles' back line. The game pretty much lived in the Wildcats' attacking half and it showed in a 19-2 shot advantage in the second half.
"The loss of Matt not only hurt us in the middle, but it also hurt the morale," Wilkins said. "We just couldn't recover from that. We made some changes in hopes that we could still have some go in the middle by pulling Dominic [Whalen] back and that didn't work. That's on me."
Messing scored once more with 18:31 to play and Colin McHale added an insurance goal with 15:37 to play to cap off a dominant second half by Twin Valley.
"I haven't seen my team apply that kind of pressure for such an extended period of time," Hayford said. "Our guys didn't let off the accelerator. I'm probably most proud of the fact that when they got the 2-1 lead, they didn't think we're in the driver's seat. They've learned their lessons over the season that when you have somebody down, you don't let them get back up."
Even in conceding the four goals, Harrington played stellar in the net for the Eagles. Under constant pressure, he made 12 saves and at times, kept Arlington afloat on Saturday.
"[Bryce] made a couple mistakes early in the playoffs, which I think bothered him. He just had an unbelievable game today," Wilkins said. "I can't praise that kid enough in his first year going into goal. We put in him in there based on his athleticism and he worked so hard to get himself to that magnitude of a goalkeeper and I think it really showed today."
Arlington finishes up with a 13-4-1 record, after making its second straight trip to the D-IV title game, a year after hoisting the hardware.
"I'm proud of the fact that they worked their tails off to get back here," Wilkins said. "Obviously, you want a different outcome. You want it for your seniors. I have a next year, but they don't. They played hard and had a good season. They have nothing to be ashamed of."
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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