Conrad’s Hat Trick Leads Men’s Soccer Past Wesleyan

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Conrad’s Hat Trick Leads Men’s Soccer Past Wesleyan

By Colin McIntyre

The men’s soccer team (8-3-3, 5-2-3) came from behind with a hat trick from Greg Conrad ’17 to beat Wesleyan and secure hope for a playoff berth in the NESCAC tournament after a midweek, non-conference defeat at Castleton.

On Tuesday, Oct. 21, Middlebury traveled to Castleton to face the Spartans and fell behind early. In the seventh minute, Castleton put a header past Greg Sydor ’17 off of a cross. Middlebury fought back but were unable to find an equalizer. Adam Glaser ’17 fired Middlebury’s best first half chance wide in the 22nd minute, and in the second half, the Panthers peppered the frame with shots, but were either off target or denied by Spartan keeper Amir Pasic.

In the contest, Middlebury led 15-5 in shots and 7-1 in corner kicks, but only were able to generate four shots on goal throughout the game. The loss was the first time in nonconference play that the Panthers failed to win as they fell to 7-3-3 on the season.

On Saturday, Oct. 25, Middlebury played host to Wesleyan, who were tied with the Panthers on points in the NESCAC but had played one fewer game. Wesleyan came out firing, and nearly put the Panthers in a big hole early, but couldn’t find the net thanks to saves from Sydor and the goalposts.

In the third minute, Sydor saved a point-blank strike; in the sixth minute, the Middlebury defense cleared a good Wesleyan cross; and a Cardinal shot in the seventh minute went off the crossbar. Despite giving up the opening opportunities, Middlebury found their rhythm in the 13th minute with a long possession that culminated in a shot from Conrad that went wide right.

The best Middlebury chances in the first half came off of a free kick from just outside the penalty area in the 16th minute. Conrad took a hard strike over the wall but the ball hit the crossbar. Kirk Horton ’17 was there to collect the rebound, but his shot was saved.

Middlebury’s chances in the first half were generally off target, but the Panthers denied several other Wesleyan shots in the first half, including a one-handed save from Sydor in the 27th minute. The Cardinals led 6-5 in shots at halftime, and 4-1 in shots on goal.

“We just had a few slip-ups in the first half,” said center back Deklan Robinson ’16. “It took us a little while to get into the game but once we did, the mistakes stopped and we started to get some chances.”

Coming out of the break with the scoreless tie still intact, Wesleyan was able to keep the upper hand that they had established in the first half. Six minutes after the restart, Sydor pushed aside a close Wesleyan shot for his fifth save of the day, but last week’s NESCAC player of the week Adam Cowie-Haskell was in the area to put home the rebound and give the Cardinals the lead.

After the goal, Middlebury settled into the game and began to suffocate the Wesleyan attack. The Cardinals only recorded two shots in the final 40 minutes, and neither was on target. Conversely, Middlebury began to force the ball forward through the midfield and attack the frame, led by Conrad’s five second-half shots, four of which were on target and three of which were goals.

“I though that Conrad had a great game,” said Captain Noah Goss-Woliner ’15. “Not only scoring three goals, but he also gave us an energy boost by winning balls all over the field. We were able to feed off of his work rate, as well as the energy of the crowd, and put some sustained pressure on their goal.”

In the 56th minute, Middlebury packed its tallest players into the box off of a free kick. In a fashion reminiscent of the game winner against Bates, Middlebury sent the ball into the box, where they used their size advantage to start bouncing the ball off heads in the box. Conrad was able to get a touch in front of the goal above the Wesleyan back line and level the score at one goal apiece.

Middlebury continued to push forward, with Adam Glaser ’17 registering a close shot. In the 67th minute, as the ball was skating toward the Wesleyan end line, Glaser beat a defender to the ball, controlled the ball, and burned the defender to send the ball towards the middle of the box from the left side. In the commotion in front of the goal, Conrad kicked the ball over his shoulder with his back to the goal for his second goal of the day.
Middlebury continued their dominance after taking the lead, highlighted by a beautiful corner kick from Goss-Woliner that found the head of a streaking Tom Dils ’17. Dils’ header was quick but just high as it bounced off the crossbar.
The Panther defense held strong as several Wesleyan opportunities skirted across the face of goal, but they didn’t manage a shot. As the Cardinals brought more attackers on in the final minutes and pushed their keeper forward in search of an equalizer, they managed to get three corner kicks in the last three minutes, all of which were cleared. The last clearance found Conrad’s feet in the Wesleyan half with less than a minute to play; he beat the lone defender and danced on the penalty spot after firing a hard shot into the right side to complete his hat trick.
The comeback victory came in front of a sizable parent’s weekend crowd on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The other 10 NESCAC schools played on Wednesday afternoon to determine the final seeding for the NESCAC tournament. Thanks to the tiebreaker Middlebury won over Wesleyan after Saturday’s win, the Panthers are guaranteed either the third or fourth seed in the tournament, both of which come with a home game on Saturday, Nov. 1.
Goss-Woliner commented on the win.
“This was one of the biggest wins that this program has had in a long time and it’s a great opportunity to be able to play another game at home next weekend,” he said. “We are a confident team on our home field and are looking forward to proving ourselves in the tournament.”

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