By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
Messiah junior Jeremy Payne admitted that there wasn't much time for nerves in regards to playing in the NCAA men's soccer Final Four tournament once the wee hours of Wednesday morning rolled around.
He was one of numerous Falcon players that boarded a plane at 3 a.m. Wednesday and while just about everyone else in Grantham was sleeping, the Falcons were about to head 1,600 miles southwest to San Antonio, Texas.
"Individually there are no nerves because I think as a whole, there's a lot of players that picked up the burden. It doesn't fall on one player alone," Payne said of his Messiah teammates. "There are many players on the team. (It's) just having confidence in everyone on the team and I don't really feel like there's any nerves."
Perhaps part of that reason is that Payne -- a Midd-West graduate and former two-time Daily Item Player of the Year -- was here last year when Messiah was crowned national champions.
Payne and the Falcons (20-1-1, 9-0 Commonwealth Conference) start their quest for a repeat title today at 7:30 p.m. CST against Williams College.
"It's unbelievable to come back down here for the second year in a row," Payne said. "I think it just shows how hard each person worked to make it happen as a team."
Payne, a 6-foot-2 midfielder, has been a large part of Messiah's success the past two seasons. He is second on the team in goals scored (15) and points (39) and has started every game the past two years.
Messiah in recent years has become somewhat of a soccer national powerhouse. The Falcons have been to 14 NCAA Final Fours, 11 since 2000. The Falcons haven't lost in their past 15 contests this year.
Coming back to San Antonio for a chance to repeat is something that Payne thinks only will benefit Messiah experience-wise.