The Falcons, with their national reputation, need to be ready each and every game during the season and into the national tournament. A single victory over Messiah, no matter when it comes, can make an opponent's season, a task that makes life difficult for Messiah.
"Everybody knows we have a target on our back and that everyone strives to beat Messiah," said Payne. "We have the mindset that every game is a big game and there is not a game that is more significant than another."
Since the end of the regular season, Messiah has really only been tested a couple of times, but they were big tests. It beat Lebanon Valley 1-0 in the Commonwealth title game and then outlasted rival York on penalty kicks in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Other than that the Falcons have won their other three postseason games by three goals.
The victory over York came on the road at York. Payne had an assist and then scored one of Messiah's four shootout goals.
"The tournament has been very tough so far," said Payne, whose team had a bye in the opening round. "If you look at the history of teams with a first-round bye a lot of those teams have not succeeded in the second round. And playing York in the regional semifinal was a tough game because they are a team that knows us very well. All of the games were challenging and each team gave us a different look that has prepared us well for the Final Four."
Payne said he does not now a ton about Loras (23-1-1), ranked fourth nationally, but the Falcons' focus always we will be on themselves.
"I know they have some big and tall guys up front. We will go over the scouting report a night or two before we play," he said. "But we do not read too much into scouting reports because we are more concerned about us and our play. We want to try and focus on trying to play the best soccer than Messiah can play."