Women’s Soccer Loses Early Leads for Unlucky Results

By Alex Morris

This weekend could have been much more for the Middlebury women’s soccer team, as the Panthers earned their third consecutive draw, tying Tufts 1-1 on Saturday, Oct. 10 and Wesleyan 2-2 on Sunday, Oct. 11.

The Panthers began the weekend with a trip to Tufts on Saturday. Middlebury followed their recent trend of getting on the board early when Adrianna Gildner ’17 scored in the tenth minute. Jamie Soroka ’16 dribbled down the left side, drawing Tufts goalkeeper Emily Bowers out of the goalmouth before feeding the ball to Gildner who tapped it into the back of the net.

Tufts hung around though, and Kate Reinmuth ’17 worked hard to deny long distance efforts from Tufts strikers Jess Capone and Alex Scheman. Tufts’ pressure was finally rewarded with just 42 seconds left in the first half, with Alessandra Sadler getting her first career goal for the Jumbos.

Both sides were unable to break the deadlock in the second half. Middlebury looked to be the better side, with an offensive onslaught that threatened to score several times. Middlebury saw two chances on back-to-back free kicks saved earlier on in the half, followed by back-to-back shots in the 80th minute. Capone had the last opportunity for Tufts, capitalizing on chaos in the Middlebury box after a corner, but Reinmuth made an outstanding diving save to paw the ball away from goal.

The overtime periods were quiet, with almost no shots on goal. Middlebury finished the game with a 14-9 shots advantage while Reinmuth finished with six saves.

“I thought that our midfield did well, [the] whole team played strong and the goalkeeping was excellent” Head Coach Peter Kim said. “We basically gave up one mistake and we paid the price for it. The field conditions are really awful there and they forced a lot of messy play and mistakes. When you play at Tufts a lot of it is about mistake management and we didn’t play a bad game. Tufts is always a tough game at home and it was their homecoming and senior day to boot, so it was an emotional day for them.”

After coming so close against Tufts, Middlebury travelled to Wesleyan on Sunday looking for a huge conference win. Gildner, whose play this weekend earned her NESCAC player of the week honors, continued her excellent form when she opened the scoring just four minutes into the game with her fourth goal in four matches. She unleashed a rocket from 20 yards out that bent just inside the right post.

“We’ve been working hard to combine well from the back line all the way to the front four, so it was great to finally see our work pay off and get goals that took the entire team,” Gildner said.

However, Kim is always cautious of a lapse of focus when his team gets on the board early.

“It takes a lot of focus and discipline,” Kim said. “It’s even harder when you have these double header weekends when you have all these people dropping out injured. Soccer is not a game meant to be played back to back, so it’s challenging with physical fatigue on top of mental fatigue. Credit to the girls for what they did put in.”

Middlebury’s momentum was interrupted when the team was forced to change goalkeepers ten minutes later when Reinmuth was injured and replaced by Emily Eslinger ’18. The Cardinals responded with a goal in the 15th minute of the half. Madeline Keane’s shot off of a corner was blocked by a Panther defender before the rebound came right back to the striker, who wasted no time making sure her second effort hit the back of the net.

Middlebury notched it up a gear, and the team’s efforts were rewarded just before the halftime whistle blew. Katherine Hobbs ’17 curled a shot from 20 yards away that dipped in just under the crossbar to give her team a 2-1 lead heading into the break.

The second half was characterized by congestion in the midfield, where neither side could progress much beyond the halfway line. Cardinals got the goal they were looking for in the 78th minute when Sarah Sylla scored on a corner kick, placing the ball just inside the right post. Sylla nearly grabbed the win for Wesleyan with just 30 seconds left on the clock, but her effort was saved by Eslinger.

Wesleyan was the better of the two sides in the overtime periods, with their efforts off of corner kicks furiously cleared by Middlebury. The Cardinals finished with a 15-12 shot advantage and 11-3 advantage in corners kicks.

“Obviously we wish we could’ve come away with two wins this weekend, but we  are using that to motivate us going into the next couple of matches and hopefully raise our ranking in the NESCAC,” Gildner said.

The Panthers return to action on home turf for homecoming weekend against Trinity on Saturday, Oct. 17.

“Our goals for this weekend are going to be to come out stronger and harder than any of our opponents from the start and take (and keep) the lead early on,” Gildner said. “If we keep connecting as a team, play our style of possession and stay composed I have no doubt we will get the results we want this weekend.”