East Hampton High School graduate Brandon West reached the pinnacle of success in his sport at the collegiate level this past weekend, helping the Messiah College men’s soccer team win the Division III National Championship in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday. It is the ninth national championship for the program. The Falcons capped an undefeated season (23-0-2) with a dominant 5-1 win over Ohio Northern University, and West, now a sophomore, started in goal for his team for the entire season and throughout the playoffs.
West had plenty of support on offense in the national title game, but he had to come up big in two games prior to the championship win. He recorded a shutout in a 1-0 overtime win over Loras College in the national semifinal game, and in the Sweet 16 game on November 17 against rival York College, on York’s home field, West made two clutch saves in a penalty kick shootout to give his team the 4-2 edge in penalty kicks.
As a four-year starter for the Bonackers, West made a name for himself as one of the top goalies on Long Island. As a junior, he was outstanding in a 2-0 loss to eventual state champion Comsewogue in the 2009 county championship, keeping the score respectable against what was a superior Comsewogue team. In his senior year, West capped off an impressive career for East Hampton, setting school records for career shutouts and saves.
In his freshman year at Messiah, West found himself in the very unfamiliar role of sitting the bench, and after that experience, he said he was determined to do everything in his power to get on the field. To that end, he relied on the work ethic that East Hampton head coach Rich King said is a big part of what made West so successful in the first place. The hard work paid off—West won the starting job at the beginning of the season, beating out a teammate who was a two-time All-Conference player and led the Falcons to a national championship as a freshman.
“After that season had ended, my goal wasn’t necessarily to take the starting job but I was going to do whatever I needed to do in the offseason to help the team out,” West said. “I worked really, really hard in the offseason.”
West said he was happy when he learned he got the starting nod, but said he didn’t lose his focus.
“It was awesome, but I knew I still had to prove myself, and I think I did that,” he added.
Messiah head coach Brad McCarty said he wasn’t surprised that West became such a key player for his team in only his second year. He said that West has all the tools it takes to be a great goalkeeper, and said his work ethic and maturity have made him the complete package.
“He has dynamic reflexes and he’s very good in the air,” McCarty said of West’s skills. McCarty said that West “came up huge” in the win over York and the semifinal win over Loras, making the penalty-kick saves against York and coming up with three major saves to preserve the tie and help force overtime against Loras. But McCarty said he has been just as proud of West’s development as a person.
“He has really grown and matured since he first arrived here last fall,” McCarty said, “both as a person and as a student and player. And I think that development allowed him to perform at a high level during our NCAA run.”
West had to display some mental toughness in the win over York, not only because he was placed in the pressure-packed role of defending the goal in penalty kicks, but also because his team had squandered a two-goal second-half lead in that game.
Being able to overcome that swing in momentum and come up big in penalty kicks made the win over York even sweeter, West said.
“It was really exciting, especially after being scored on twice and then ending up being the hero in a sense,” he said.
Before settling on Messiah as his college of choice, West was actively recruited by several Division I programs, including the University of Connecticut. But he chose Messiah not only because of its reputation as a soccer powerhouse, but for personal reasons as well—Messiah is a Christian school, and West describes his faith as the “most important part” of his life. West also added that he was looking for a school that would give him the opportunity to grow not only as a soccer player, but as a person.
“Messiah really stood out to me with the relationships the guys had with each other and with Jesus Christ,” he said. “That was something I never saw at other schools. And just watching them play, their style of play was something I loved also.”
East Hampton head coach Rich King said he couldn’t be prouder of West and the continued success he’s had at the collegiate level. King not only praised West for his skills and work ethic, but also credited him with helping the Bonackers become a perennially strong program in Suffolk County.