Women’s Soccer Hosts Conference Finals

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Women’s Soccer Hosts Conference Finals

Scarlett Kirk '14 helps advance the women's soccer team to the NESCAC Semifinals. (Campus/Anthea Viragh)

Scarlett Kirk '14 helps advance the women's soccer team to the NESCAC Semifinals. (Campus/Anthea Viragh)

Scarlett Kirk '14 helps advance the women's soccer team to the NESCAC Semifinals. (Campus/Anthea Viragh)

Scarlett Kirk '14 helps advance the women's soccer team to the NESCAC Semifinals. (Campus/Anthea Viragh)

By Alex Morris

A year after suffering a first-round upset against Wesleyan in the NESCAC tournament, the Middlebury women’s soccer team learned from previous mistakes to record a comfortable 3-1 victory over Colby on Saturday, Nov. 2. The Panthers will host the semi-finals and finals of the NESCAC tournament for the first time since 2004 this coming Saturday, Nov. 9 and Sunday, Nov. 10.

The quarterfinal loss to Wesleyan was not far from the minds of many players as they prepared for the game against Colby.

“Wesleyan was definitely on all of our minds going into Saturday and we were sure to not overlook Colby,” Lindsay Kingston ’14 said. “We continue to maintain the same mentality we have had all season, which is one game at a time. We are not overlooking anyone this year.”

The Panthers suffered a nervous start to the game, as possession was disjointed and the majority of play occurred inside their half. However, Middlebury soon settled into the game with the first chance falling to Scarlett Kirk ’14 six minutes in. After going clear of the defense off a ball from Hannah Robinson ’16, the powerful forward took one too many dribbles allowing oncoming Colby keper Emily Brook to get a touch on the ball.

Middlebury proved to be the stronger of the two sides, with the Mules continually outmuscled on the ball by the Panthers and Kirk especially terrorizing the defense. Typical of the impressive combination play all season from Kirk and Julie Favorito ’14, after a great cross by the latter to open space on the left-hand wing, Kirk pushed the ball forward with a number of deft touches, before sending in a pass across goal. Robinson was just unable to get on the end of it after being thwarted by a Colby defender tracking back.

After several close chances, Kirk finally broke the deadlock 23 minutes into the contest. Jamie Soroka ’16 headed a ball through the box to Kirk who acted quickly with a cool left-footed spin volley that lifted the ball over the keeper into the right-hand corner.

Middlebury maintained a high tempo throughout the first half, as Colby saw very little of the ball. The Panthers were denied more chances to get ahead after a rocket of a free kirk from Favorito on the top of the 18 as well as a powerful shot from Kate Raszka ’17 that just went over the crossbar.

The start of the second half brought the continued dominance of the Panthers. Kirk was denied a second goal after she saw her strong connection with a corner from Ali Omsberg ’15 rattle the crossbar just five minutes in.

However, the game soon lost some of its edge, with slightly stagnant play in the midfield and few shots on goal. Colby was able to find an equaliser in the 67th minute against the run of play after the Mules caught the Panthers sleeping. After getting on the wrong side of the Middlebury defense, Abby Hatch fired a shot on goal that elicited a good point blank save from Elizabeth Foody ’14. However, the ball remained uncleared in the box, and Amanda Findlay was able to slot in the rebound.

While the goal gave Colby renewed confidence, Middlebury was back on top just five minutes later. Favorito played a ball to Kirk, who was able to get behind Colby’s defense. After drawing the Mules keeper out, Kirk drove a powerful shot that skipped across the ground into the bottom left hand corner.

“I think probably my highlight of the game was Scarlett’s second goal,” Head coach Peter Kim said. “Colby had just broke the game open after scoring and were mounting a strong resistance to us, but the team rallied quietly quickly to get the game back.”

After regaining the lead, Middlebury focused on keeping possession and kept knocking on Colby’s goal. The Panthers were rewarded for their persistent efforts after a late goal from Carter Talgo ’15 with four minutes left in the game. Kirk led off with an impressive solo run, sending a defender the wrong way with effortless footwork, but her shot yet again found the woodwork. Talgo followed up with the rebound into the top left hand corner.

Kim was quick to downplay expectations for the upcoming weekend.

“The team is proud of its accomplishments, but know that the hardest is yet to come,” Kim said. “We continue to take the season game to game. We’re excited we’re here but it’s time to push up our sleeves and get the job done.”

Middlebury will enjoy a home turf advantage facing Tufts in the NESCAC semi-final on Saturday, Nov 9. A team Kim describes as “fast, physical and direct,” Tufts will pose a challenge to even the high-riding Panthers.

“To prepare for Tufts we will be working on our attack in the offensive half of the field,” Favorito said. “We feel that we still have some work to do on our runs into the box and our passes as well. This is something we have been working on all season and we will continue to work on because it is one of the most difficult parts of the game.”

[CORRECTION: The photograph above went uncredited in the print edition of this story; it should be credited to Anthea Viragh.]

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