MIDDLEBURY - The Middlebury Panthers men's soccer team will be making their ninth appearance in the NCAA tournament when they host Franklin State this Saturday in regional action. The Panthers earned a bid to the tournament despite falling in the NESCAC Championship to Amherst 2-0 this past weekend. Middlebury will enter the regionals with a record of 13-2-2.
Of the 13 Middlebury wins, 11 were shutouts and until the NESCAC Championship game this past Sunday the Panthers had not allowed their opponents to score more than one goal in a game all season.
Middlebury began last weekend by dispatching Williams College 1-0 in the NESCAC semifinals. It was the Panthers fourth straight shutout win in a game where Middlebury held a 12-8 advantage in shots. Sophomore attacker Brooks Farrar scored the game's lone goal in the opening, while Middlebury goalie Brian Bush needed to make just one save to preserve the shutout win. Andrew Graham made 5 saves for Williams who finish their season at 8-6-2.
But then on Sunday in the conference championship Middlebury suffered their first defeat since losing 1-0 to Bates on Oct. 18. Jay Heo and Jake Duker both scored to lead the Amherst Jeff's to a 2-0 win over the Panthers. Along with the win came the NESCAC Conference Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. These two teams could meet again soon. Both squads fired off seven shots, with Busch getting credit for a pair of saves for Middlebury. Amherts's goalie Lannard Kovacs was credited with three saves for the victorious Jeffs, who have drawn western New England in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The women's squad had the same opportunity as the men for a conference championship last weekend, but fell in the semifinals to Amherst 1-0 last Saturday. It was the Panthers second loss to the top seeded Jeffs, losing to them at home 4-1 back on Sept. 13. Amherst out shot the visiting Panthers 14-8, with Meg Murphy scoring the games lone goal in the second half. Allie Horwitz made four saves for the Jeff's who go into the NCAA tournament, while Lauryn Torch made three saves for the Panthers. Middlebury ends their season with an 8-6-2 record.
The soccer teams weren't the only Middlebury College teams to have a shot at a conference championship last weekend. The field hockey team had the same opportunity, but fell in the championship like the mens soccer squad. But, also like the soccer squad, they earned an at large bid despite losing in the conference finals. They will face the Tuft Jumbos in the regionals this Saturday at Bowdoin college. When they take the field Saturday it will be their sixth straight tournament appearance, and the ninth in the programs history.
The Panthers advanced to Sunday's Conference Champions by eliminating Williams College 2-1 in the semifinals last Saturday. Sophomore Attacker Chase Delano scored both goals for the Panthers while Jess Overlander provided the lone score for Williams College. Middlebury dominated the contest, out-shooting Williams 17-6, and if it wasn't for the fine performance of goalie Katrina Tulla (7 saves) they would have run away with the game. Caitlin Pentifallo made two saves for the victorious Panthers.
Things didn't go as smoothly in Sunday's Conference Championship.when they took on top seeded Bowdoin College. In a game that came down to shot accuracy, Bowdoin won going away 4-0. It was only the second time the Panthers were shutout all season. The last time occurred back on Oct. 4, on the same field against the same Bowdoin team. This game was evenly played with Bowdoin holding a mere one shot advantage, blasting 15 at the Panthers net, while Middlebury fired back with 14. In penalty corners the Panthers held a slight edge at 7-6. But the real difference can be found in the quality and accuracy of the shots taken. Despite earning the shutout Bowdoin's goalies (Emileigh Mercer and Emily Neilson) needed to make just 4 saves to preserve.
Meanwhile 11 of the 15 shots blasted by Bowdoin's offense either found the net, or had to be stopped by Panther goalie Pentifallo, who finished with an impressive seven saves. Lindsay McNamara scored twice and Madeleine McQueeney contributed a goal and an assist to lead Bowdoin to the 4-0 win and with it the NESCAC Championship for 2008. The Panthers enter their first round game in the NCAA Tournament against Tufts with an impressive 19-3 record.
Panthers Ends Season with a Win
The Middlebury Panthers overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit to defeat the Tuft Jumbos 38-24 last Saturday in Middlebury to end their season on a positive point. Panther quarterback Jack Kramer led the comeback. Kramer completed 24 of his 35 passing attempts for 299 yards, three interceptions and three touchdowns.
Andrew Matson proved to be Kramer's favorite target with 5 receptions for 87 yards, including catching one of the three touchdown passes. Tim Monaghan and Ryan Bohling caught the other two. On the ground Erik Rostad led the way, carrying the ball 27 times for 92 yards and a touchdown. Kramer (15 rushes for 52 yards) also scored on the ground. The Panthers end their season with a 5-3 record, while Tufts end dead even at 4-4.