Panthers’ Season Ends with Penalty-Kick Loss to Bowdoin

By Colin McIntyre

The men’s soccer team traveled to Amherst, Mass. last weekend to compete in the final rounds of the NESCAC championships. In the semifinal matchup on Saturday, Nov. 8, Middlebury, coming off of a 5-4 victory in penalties over Wesleyan, faced the sixth-seeded Bowdoin, who had defeated the third-seeded Williams team in the quarterfinals the previous weekend. Bowdoin edged Middlebury in a shootout after 110 minutes of scoreless soccer.

In the semifinal, Middlebury found possession early and began to generate chances in the offensive end of the field. Early opportunities included a corner kick from Phil Skayne ’17, a blocked shot struck by forward Adam Glaser ’17 and a shot on goal from Greg Conrad ’17, all within the first five minutes of regulation play.

Bowdoin’s first chance came on a tight cross across the face of goal in the 11th minute. Throughout the remainder of the first half Middlebury continued to posses the ball and generate goal-scoring opportunities. Their chances included a close free kick in the 14th minute, a high Conrad shot in the 24th off of a throw in, and a strong volley from Harper Williams ’15 from the top of the penalty area.

Overall, goal-scoring opportunities for both sides were sparse in this game, with Greg Sydor ’17 turning away the only two Bowdoin shots on goal, and Middlebury registering only four shots on goal in the contest. Bowdoin led 6-3 on corner kicks, while the Panthers held a 13-10 advantage in shots. Despite the relatively low number of offensive opportunities throughout the match, each side managed to produce a few chances in the second half. Middlebury’s most promising attempt at finding the back of the net came as time expired in the second half, when Glaser sent a shot wide in a last ditch attempt to get the Panthers on the board before the added time.

In the extra periods, Bowdoin had a chance to win the game in the first minute of overtime. A Bowdoin attacker blasted a shot from a tight angle on the Middlebury end line that hit the top of the crossbar and sailed out of bounds.

Williams almost put a winner away for the Panthers in the third minute off of a long feed that went over the Bowdoin keeper, and Glaser was dispossessed while streaking towards the goal in the ninth minute.

Middlebury certainly had the upper hand in the second overtime, where they registered two of their four shots on goal. Conrad’s shot in the opening minute was saved. Tim Ogle ’17 put a throw-in onto the head of Tom Dils ’17 at the back post that nearly went in, but the Bowdoin goaltender Stevie Van Siclen made a point blank save to keep the score even.

In a repeat of last week’s result against Wesleyan in the conference quarterfinals, Middlebury would rest their hopes of advancing in the NESCAC Tournament on a penalty shootout. Kirk Horton ’17, who put home the final Middlebury penalty shot last week, stepped up first and had his low, hard shot to his left turned away by Bowdoin goaltender Van Siclen.

Sydor managed to get a hand on the first Bowdoin attempt, but the shot maintained its momentum enough to find the back of the net to put the Polar Bears up 1-0.

Tom Bean ’17 shot second again, and replicated his high left shot that got the Panthers on the board against Wesleyan, but was unable to get the on-target shot past Bowdoin. Sydor saved the second Bowdoin chance, and Noah Goss-Woliner ’15 put away his shot down the middle to level the score at 1-1.

Bowdoin climbed into the lead after they capitalized on their  third shot and Glaser had his shot saved.

Sydor made his second penalty save of the day on Bowdoin’s fourth shot as he dove to the left, and Deklan Robinson ’16 casually pushed home the final Middlebury penalty in a must-make situation to keep the Panthers in the game.

With the score level at 2-2 in the shootout, Sydor guessed correctly, flinging himself toward his right and getting a hand on the Bowdoin shot.

However, this was only enough to send the ball into the post and back into the goal as Bowdoin won the shootout 3-2 and went through to the final to face Amherst, who beat Conn. College 3-2 in the following game.

“We’re definitely disappointed by the result,” Robinson said. “Penalty kicks are a tough way to decide a game and so much comes down to chance.”

The Panthers ended their season with a 9-3-5 record. Additionally, many individuals from the squad landed at or near the top of the NESCAC individual statistics. Sydor leads the league with a save percentage of .845, and sits second in the league for total saves, with 60. Sydor has also recorded eight shutouts this season, allowing 0.61 goals-against per game.

Conrad finished the season tied for first in points with 22 (8 goals, 6 assists), and teammate Glaser was a close third with 21 points (8 goals, 5 assists).

In the final on Sunday, Bowdoin dethroned three-time defending champion Amherst 5-4 on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw through regulation and two overtime periods.

Bowdoin will receive the NESCAC’s only automatic bid to the NCAA postseason after finishing sixth in the regular season.

“It’s too bad, but it’s been a great year and we’re really going to miss the seniors,” Robinson said, reflecting on the Panthers’ season.

The team looks forward to another successful season next fall, fueled by the return of many players who contributed to this season’s sucess. The offensive duo of Conrad and Glaser will surely rank near the top of the NESCAC in the upcoming season and Sydor returns to anchor the Panther defense through his outstanding goaltending.

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