For the third time in as many NESCAC games, the Middlebury women’s soccer team scored in the final minutes to ensure a 2-1 road victory – this time against Tufts on Saturday, Oct. 5.
The Panthers were hit with a sense of déjà vu from last week’s game against Colby, as, despite a strong start, the team conceded a first half goal 17 minutes in. Jumbo Carla Kruyff slotted a pass through to Anya Kaufman who was able to tap the ball past Middlebury keeper Elizabeth Foody ’14.
“I think Tufts scoring early on in the game didn’t shake our confidence too much because we had been in that position before,” Julia Favorito ’14 said. “We obviously weren’t happy that we let in a goal, but we also knew that coming back from a 1-0 deficit was not an impossible challenge.”
Middlebury showed the drive to get back into the game early in the second half. Nine minutes in, Hannah Robinson ’16 went at it alone to give Middlebury an equaliser. Robinson’s shot hit the far right post before bouncing into the back of the net.
With the game tied at one goal apiece, play became a constant back-and-forth with both teams looking to penetrate strong defensive play. The Jumbos were denied a lead when Jess Capone was unable to capitalize on a break away after her shot was parried away by Foody.
Then, with less than two minutes left in the game, Middlebury was finally able to convert a chance from a number of strong corner kicks. After Jamie Soroka ’16 swung in the ball, several Panthers ran to open up the space. Despite the efforts of frantic Jumbos defenders, the ball fell to the feet of Sophia Kliger ’15. The junior stayed composed to score her first goal of her Middlebury career.
“It felt unreal to score my first career goal, especially in such a high stakes situation,” Kliger said. “As a center defender I don’t really get the chance to enter the attack all that much except for corner kicks and to be able to capitalize on my opportunity was incredibly exciting … We had just worked on corner kicks in practice on Friday and it was really exciting to see our hard work pay off.”
The close victories are a source of pride as well as encouragement for head coach Peter Kim. As a normally very “precise” team, the Panthers have worked to add a battling spirit to their game that now needs to be reconciled with the team’s technical prowess.
“We haven’t yet put together a top-class performance,” Kim said. “We’ve played well in spurts and certain aspects of our game, but not all of it yet. We’re hitting our stride at the right time, but it’s a matter of playing the beautiful game while keeping the edge to win.”
Favorito echoed her coach’s feelings, reflecting on the halfway point of the season.
“While pulling out those tough wins is a crucial strength for a team to have, I believe our focus will be on finding our rhythm up top so that we are able to confidently put away games early rather than waiting until the last few moments of the game to score,” Favorito said.
The Panthers, now ranked 23rd nationally, have shown a strong desire to get the result and to ensure peak fitness to score in the final minutes. The Panthers return to action for back-to-back games at home against NESCAC top-ranked Trinity on Saturday, Oct. 12 and Hamilton on Sunday, Oct. 13.