Panthers Sneak Past Wesleyan into Semis

By Colin McIntyre

The men’s soccer team finished their regular season with a 2-0 win over Plymouth State on Wednesday, Oct. 29. On Saturday, Nov. 1, they hosted Wesleyan in the NESCAC quarterfinals and won 5-4 in a penalty shootout after the game ended 1-1 in double overtime.

On Wednesday, the team traveled to New Hampshire to take on Plymouth State in their final game. Noah Goss-Woliner ’15 and Adam Glaser ’17 connected twice as each scored in the 2-0 win. In the 16th minute, a cross from Goss-Woliner from the right found Glaser, who put away his eighth goal of the season to take the lead. Middlebury went unchallenged in the first half, holding a 9-0 shots advantage. In the 80th minute, Glaser assisted Goss-Woliner’s third goal of the season as the Panthers put the game out of reach. Greg Sydor ’17 recorded another shutout in goal when he saved Plymouth State’s lone shot on goal in the second half.

On Saturday, the team played host to Wesleyan for the second time in as many weeks. Last week, they secured a home playoff game with a 3-1 win. After the rest of the NESCAC teams finished their seasons on Wednesday, the Panthers were ranked fourth, and as such played host to the fifth seeded Cardinals. As with the previous matchup, the score remained 0-0 throughout the entire first half thanks to key Middlebury defensive efforts. 

Wesleyan continued to control the game into halftime and during the second half. They were more accurate with their shots through the game, putting nine shots on goal to Middlebury’s three. Wesleyan managed to break through in the 54th minute when they controlled the ball in the penalty area and Chris Kafina put a low shot into the bottom right corner. For the next thirty minutes, Wesleyan looked poised to go onto the semifinals, but Middlebury kept getting the ball forward late as Tim Ogle ’17 and Tom Dils ’17 came on to help offensively. The Panther breakthrough came in the 86th minute as Goss-Woliner controlled a clearance after a Middlebury free kick. He shot the ball from about 25 yards out on the right side, and the Wesleyan keeper looked poised to make the save. The ball squirted out from between the keeper’s legs onto the foot of Tom Bean ’17. Bean put home his second goal of the season to level the score with only minutes remaining in regulation.

In the overtime periods, both sides had a few opportunities to take the game, but neither team gained the advantage. In the end, the score remained 1-1 after twenty minutes and the game was to be decided through a penalty shootout.

“We had some sloppy play for parts of yesterday and Wesleyan capitalized on one of those lapses in concentration,” Bean said. “We have to keep our focus the entire game come Saturday because Bowdoin is a very good squad and are capable of capitalizing on slip ups as well.”

Middlebury would kick first in the shootout, with Goss-Woliner as the first of the five Panther shooters. His shot was low and hard to his left, but Wesleyan keeper Emmett McConnell guessed correctly and pushed his shot wide to give his side the early edge. Wesleyan kept their advantage as the shootout continued. Bean put home the first Panther penalty with a hard shot off the ground, followed by Greg Conrad ’17, who made the keeper miss then shot the ball down the middle and Glaser who also put home his attempt. Wesleyan executed their attempts in the shootout, prompting Deklan Robinson ’16 to step up as the final Middlebury shooter, needing to make his penalty to keep the Panther’s hopes alive. He fired his shot past McConnell to put the pressure on the final kick. Sydor guessed correctly on the last Wesleyan shot, dove to his left, and pushed the attempt back out to level the score to 4-4 and send the shootout to sudden death. Kirk Horton ’17, the sixth Panther shooter, didn’t give McConnell a chance as he put his shot in the upper left. On the ensuing Wesleyan shot, Adam Cowie-Haskell went low and right, and Sydor saved his second straight penalty to send the Panthers through to the semifinals.

“It’s an emotional hurricane for both teams that churns out heroes and villains,” Bean said. “Fortunately Sydor rose up and became the hero we needed, giving all of us the opportunity to fight another day.”

In the other NESCAC quarterfinals, Conn. College beat top-seeded Tufts in Medford, Ma. 2-1, Bowdoin beat third seeded Williams, and Amherst beat Colby 1-0. Amherst was seeded second coming into the tournament and will host both semifinals next Saturday, and the final the next day. Middlebury will play the sixth seeded Bowdoin on Saturday. 

Amherst has now hosted three of the last four championships and will look to take their fourth straight title next week. Middlebury last won in 2010 when they beat Bowdoin on penalty kicks. The winner of the final next Saturday will secure the only automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, with the other NESCAC schools looking for an at-large bid.