Just a few East Hamptoners have played on collegiate national championship teams over the years; Brandon West is the latest.
West and his Messiah College teammates of Mechanicsburg, Pa., went 23-0-2 this past season on their way to winning Division III’s men’s soccer championship. It was the eighth national title for the Falcons in the past 11 years.
Messiah, with the 6-foot-2-inch West in the goal, swept through the N.C.A.A. tournament, defeating Loras, of Indiana, 1-0 in the semifinals before trouncing Ohio Northern (which had defeated Williams College in the other semifinal pairing) 5-1 in the national final, played in San Antonio, Tex.
Though arguably Messiah faced its toughest challenge in a Sweet 16 clash with archrival York, a game in which the Falcons (thanks largely to West’s key stops) prevailed 4-2 in penalty kicks.
A sophomore business administration major who’d like some day to play professionally, West started every game, setting a Messiah record — and tying him for the national D-III lead — with 17 shutouts. He saved 87 percent of the shots he faced, ranking him 12th nationally in that category.
Postseason honors included all-tournament team, second team all-region, and all-conference honorable mention.
During a telephone conversation this week, West, whose four siblings are also athletic, said that he’d begun playing goalie at the age of 9, inspired by the fact that his father, Ronald, who lives now in Illinois, had been the goalie on Kings College’s national-champion team.
While he acknowledged that goalies often come to know the position by default, wishing they were up on the front line, the interviewee, who first played youth soccer for John Barrows, never has had second thoughts. He works out now with his younger stepbrother, Nick Tulp, who was the goalie on East Hampton High School’s county championship team this fall, and also with his younger brother, Nick West, who, though only a sophomore — as is Tulp — scored huge goals for the Bonackers throughout the course of the season.
Asked if Messiah’s eventual success were evident from the beginning, West said, “Yeah, we were young but we had a lot of talent. I was told before the season began that I was starting, so that helped. We had a good back line and our attackers were incredible, amazing. [Messiah’s right wing was the tournament’s offensive M.V.P., and its center midfielder was the national player of the year.] We knew we’d make a run once we hit the postseason. Last year, we were the top seed and were 18-0-1 going into the tournament, but were upset in the first round in overtime. That was a devastating loss . . . it was a great motivator — we didn’t want that to happen again.”
West said in reply to another question that he loved the college and his coach, Brad McCarty, who has led Messiah to three national titles in the past four years, having taken over from Dave Brandt, now at the U.S. Naval Academy, whose Messiah teams had won a half-dozen national crowns.
While the former Bonac star acknowledged he had improved over the past few years, he appreciated the fact, he said, that his coach was “more interested in making me a better person than a better player.”
His faith, said West, was one of the reasons he had chosen Messiah, a Christian school, over several others with strong soccer traditions he’d been thinking of.
“He’s very disciplined,” Joan Tulp, West’s grandmother, said, as an aside, during an interview this week concerning her participation in the New Year’s Day plunge at Amagansett’s Atlantic Avenue Beach, “and I think his brothers have picked up on that.”