For most high school athletes, simply continuing their careers at the collegiate level is a dream come true. And being a key member of not one but two national championship teams is a feat that barely anyone can claim.Brandon West can now count himself as a member of that elite group.
For the second straight year, the East Hampton High School graduate helped lead the Messiah College men’s soccer team to the NCAA Division III National Championship, in his second straight season as the team’s starting goalie. The Falcons defeated Rutgers-Camdem, 2-1, in double overtime in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday. Messiah’s Jeremy Payne scored the winning goal off an assist from Joshua Wood in the 104th minute of play.
The win for the Falcons secured not only their 10th title in 10 championship appearances, but also their second straight title, and their fifth in the past six seasons. Saturday’s final was their second over that span that ended in overtime (2010), with one other decided in penalty kicks (2008).
The loss for Rutgers (23-1-2) was its first of the season and it came in its first national final appearance in program history.
West, a junior, said the expectations for a national title remained after his team won it last year, particularly because the squad lost only two senior starters. He said he felt more prepared for this year’s NCAA tournament run with a year of experience as the full-time starter under his belt.
“I was definitely a lot more confident in myself this year,” he said. “I had the same confidence in my teammates this year as I had last year, but this year, knowing how the NCAA tournament is done, and knowing what we were doing in the Final Four, it wasn’t like everything was a surprise to me.
“We had the same team again this year, too,” he continued, “and now we were playing for the second year together.”
Messiah took an early lead in the game when Brian Ramirez scored in the 12th minute. The Falcons dominated possession in the first half, but still only had a 1-0 lead at halftime. Play was more even in the second half, and Rutgers-Camden tied it up with just 11 minutes left in regulation.
West made seven saves in the game, including a low, diving save in the first half after a Rutgers player got into a one-on-goalie situation. West also made a nice diving stop in overtime on a shot from 18 yards out.
“It wasn’t dead center, but he hit the ball and I was screened a bit and the ball came from the left side but tailed off and went to the right post, so I had to dive and make a low hand save,” West said.
West tried to describe what it felt like to win a second consecutive national title.
“It was awesome,” he said. “The coolest feeling [is] that [this is] the way our seniors are going to leave, and giving that to them is awesome. Not many people get to experience what I got to experience last year, but getting to do it twice is that much better. It was incredible.”
West said he’d like to finish his college career next season with another national championship. Beyond that, he said, he’d like to keep playing soccer, professionally if possible, and regardless of whether that comes to fruition, he wants to remain involved with athletics and fitness.
A business administration major, West said he’d like to work at a CrossFit gym and own his own gym, or a sporting good store, one day. He added that he would also like to coach at the high school or collegiate level.
His younger brother, Nick West, is currently a junior at East Hampton and was just named an All-State soccer player. Nick West may join the Messiah team after he graduates high school, Brandon said, and if so, Brandon said he’d like to stay in the area—Grantham, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg—to see his younger brother play. (Their sister, Ashley West, is a standout collegiate athlete as well, running cross country, indoor track and outdoor track at Susquehanna University, also in Pennsylvania).
West did not rule out the possibility of returning to East Hampton either, saying that he would love the opportunity to work with his former team and head coach Rich King.