It was five days in December that Brooke Firestone will likely never forget.
In less than a week, the Dover High School graduate checked off just about every significant box on the bucket list of every college athlete.
First-team Academic All-American? Check.
First-team All-American? Check.
National champion? Check.
All-American, on field and off: It all started last Tuesday, Dec. 3, when it was announced that Firestone, a senior soccer standout at Messiah College, was named a first-team Academic All-American.
Academic excellence is nothing new for Firestone. She was a third-team Academic All-America selection by the College Sports Information Directors of America in 2018. She carries at 3.85 cumulative grade-point average as a math major with a teaching certification.
Just two days later, on Thursday, Dec. 5, Firestone was named a first-team NCAA Division III All-American by the United Soccer Coaches. That followed a natural progression for the 5-foot, 6-inch Messiah forward, who was a third-team All-American in 2017 and a second-team All-American in 2018.
National champion: Then came the crowning achievement for Firestone and her Messiah teammates on Saturday, Dec. 7, when the Falcons won the NCAA Division III national crown with a 1-0 triumph over William Smith College in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was a battle of D-III women’s soccer titans. Messiah came in ranked No. 1, while William Smith was No. 2.
Firestone didn’t have a goal or an assist in the title contest, but without Firestone’s efforts in Friday’s semifinal it’s highly unlikely the Falcons would’ve made it to the championship game.
In the semifinals, Messiah found itself down 1-0 to Carnegie Mellon when Firestone provided the assist on Kayla Herr’s tying goal in the 78th minute. The two teams eventually found themselves in a penalty-kick shootout, when Firestone again came up big in a clutch situation. Firestone’s penalty-kick goal gave Messiah a 3-1 lead in the shootout. When the Messiah goalie made a save on Carnegie Mellon’s next attempt, the Falcons were headed to the national final.
Falcons piling up titles: Messiah went on to win the sixth national title in the illustrious history of the Falcons’ women’s soccer program and it was 31st national championship in the history of the school, which is located in Cumberland County, just north of the York County border. That includes 19 team national crowns. All of those championships, rather remarkably, have come since 2000.
Messiah’s six national titles in women’s soccer, meanwhile, is more than any other D-III program.
Still, it was the first national crown for Firestone and her teammates. The Falcons’ last women’s soccer national title came in 2012.
Saturday’s win also avenged the Falcons’ lone loss of the season back on Sept. 7, when they fell to William Smith, 2-0. That had been Messiah’s fourth-straight loss to the school from Geneva, New York. So the Falcons certainly took care of a little unfinished business vs. the Herons.
Messiah finished the season at 22-1-3.
Consistent excellence: That record almost certainly wouldn’t have been possible without Firestone’s consistent excellence. She finished as the team leader in goals (19) and points (44). She also had seven multi-goal games on the year and was tied for seventh in the nation with eight game-winning goals. She did all that despite missing a handful of games with an injury.
That capped a stellar college career for Firestone, who will leave Messiah with 51 goals and 29 assists. She was also a two-time Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth Offensive Player of the Year and a three-time selection on the All-Mid-Atlantic Region First Team.
Sharing it with family: The championship season was made even more special for Firestone because she got to share it with her younger sister, Kylie, who was a freshman member of the Falcons' team.
Kyle Firestone played in all 26 Messiah games this season, collecting three goals and two assists.
High school star: Of course, for the folks in Dover, Brooke Firestone’s college exploits probably aren’t all that surprising. She was scholastic force with the Eagles, piling up 115 goals and 64 assists across four seasons. She helped her team to two York-Adams League Division II championships and was an all-state performer in 2014 and 2015.
Still, nothing in Brooke Firestone’s stellar career can likely match what happened to her during an unforgettable five-day stretch in December of 2019.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.