Men’s Soccer Falls to Tufts; Bounces Back at Wesleyan

By Andrew Rigas

The Middlebury men’s soccer team split its crucial weekend on the road, falling to Tufts 1-0 on Saturday, Oct. 10 before coming from behind to sneak past Wesleyan 2-1 on Sunday, Oct. 11.

“At our current level, we’re the best team in the ‘cac, but we know it won’t be handed to us,” Adam Glaser ’17 said.

Tufts, who would move past Middlebury in the standings with a win, certainly did not hand it to the Panthers, jumping on them immediately with a couple of good scoring opportunities in the first ten minutes of play. Greg Sydor ’17 saved Jason Kayne’s attempt and shots by Nathan Majumder and Zach Halliday just missed putting the Jumbos ahead early on. Luis Echeverria ’17 almost scored a stunning goal when he struck a bicycle kick that sailed over the bar in the 23rd minute. For the most part, Tufts had better success generating offense in the first half, outshooting Middlebury 7-1, but at the halfway point, the game was still scoreless.

In the 53rd minute, Kayne fed Majumder who dribbled into the left side of the box and let fly a shot that got by Sydor.

With a little over 12 minutes left in the game, substitute Tyler Bonini ’16 got into the box and found just goalkeeper Scott Greenwood between him and a tie game, but the Jumbos keeper handled Bonini’s shot that would have knotted the game at one. Bonini’s shot was only one of three the Panthers had all game, and they lost 1-0 to the Jumbos who jumped Middlebury in the standings.

Middlebury returned to the pitch the next day in Wesleyan with a chance to return to second place with a win. However, Wesleyan rode a hot streak into Sunday, going 5-0-1 in its past six games after having squashed Colby 3-0 the day before.

Less than three minutes into the game, Sydor had to make a heroic save to keep the game tied, diving to his right to corral a point-blank look by Komar Martinez-Paiz. Greg Conrad ’17 fired shot after shot in the first half, including a whistler in the 17th minute that Cardinal goalkeeper Jack Katkavich had to go to his knees to stop, but he could not put one in and the score remained tied at zero at the end of the first half.

Wesleyan looked more inspired to start the second half, with five shots on Sydor in the first ten minutes, and took the 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute when Adam Cowie-Haskell headed in a free kick from Brandon Sousa.

16 minutes later, the Panthers answered right back when Daniel O’Grady ’19 drove home his third goal of the season from 18 yards out to bring the game right back to even. Conrad finally broke through with just over ten minutes left. Philip Skayne ’17 crossed the ball into the center and 6’5” Conrad headed the game-winning goal past Katkavich.

“The success of the Middlebury team comes from the resiliency that the players have. We kept pushing until our opportunity came,” O’Grady said. “Once it did, we continued to press and were rewarded with a win. Many teams would easily wilt under such pressure, but our fighting spirit kept us alive.”

The Panthers earned the come-from-behind 2-1 win, largely on the back of Sydor’s career high 12 saves.

“We refused to let it happen again,” Sydor said. “We had to prove to ourselves that we are capable of coming back from behind.

The Panthers’ dramatic win put them right back into a tie for second place in the NESCAC standings with Tufts and Conn. College. They will try to improve upon their 7-2-1 overall record this week in three home games against Trinity and Plymouth St. on Saturday, Oct. 17 and Tuesday, Oct. 20 respectively.