MECHANICSBURG - Messiah College sophomore Jeremy Payne, a graduate of Midd-West High School, was honored by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America as the National Player of the Year.
Payne becomes the sixth player in Messiah men's soccer history to win the award, the first sophomore to do so. Among his predecessors is Middleburg graduate David McClellan, making Payne the second product of the western Snyder County school district to be so honored.
"It's a very special recognition," Messiah head coach Brad McCarty said. "It's a true reflection of the player that Jeremy is, and of all the players that make up our program. It takes great teammates to have someone win this award."
Payne was named First Team Mid-Atlantic All-Region and First Team All-American this year, with both honors being the first of his young career. Undoubtedly one of the toughest matchups in all of NCAA Division III men's soccer, Payne led the Falcons in both goals (17) and points (44). His 10 assists also tied him for the second most on Messiah's team.
In the Falcons' five-game run to the NCAA Division III national championship, Payne scored three goals and collected four assists.
"Jeremy led our team in points, and his ability to create so many chances was critical to our success," McCarty said.
Payne also was tied for the team lead in game-winning goals.
"We have a number of players that we rely on to create offense," McCarty said, giving special reference to Messiah six-man rotation up front. "Part of his ability to garner this recognition is impacted by having really good teammates and being on a team that accomplished lofty goals."
Playing with a dynamic skill set and strong, athletic frame, Payne was named the Commonwealth Conference Player of the Year this season. He proved to be an extremely challenging mark for opposing defenses.
"When we recruited Jeremy, we knew he would be able to score the ball," McCarty said. "What has surprised us is his ability to interplay and help the team keep the ball. He doesn't lose the ball very often to the trap, to the dribble, or to the pass. As a result, he has a huge ability on our territory battle as we get to keep possession in our opponent's half."
Payne's ability to control the Falcons' possessions made a big impact on the field, even as he was moved from target to midfield just one month into the season.
"He was always more familiar with the midfield, because that's what he knew before he came here," McCarty said. "His learning curve was to play target his first year and the beginning of this year. What was a big benefit to our team was his ability to bring some things he learned up front to his play in the middle."
Many of those skills, including posting up and rolling off his defender, paid big dividends in the Falcons' semifinal win over Loras College. In that edge-of-your-seat contest, the game winner in overtime was set up by Payne's spin off his defender on the 18-yard line.
"His ability, his length, and his athleticism at our level is impactful," McCarty said. "He's done a great job for us."