Women’s Soccer Falls to Williams in Semis

By Alex Morris

After upsetting Williams just one week ago, the Middlebury women’s soccer team couldn’t repeat the feat on Saturday, Nov. 7, falling in the NESCAC semifinals to the eventual NESCAC champions 2-1.

In the week leading up to the game, Head Coach Peter Kim described practice as business as usual.

“I can’t say we were really worried,” Kim  said. “We knew we could beat them. We knew they were really good but we had a game plan going in. When you play a team like Williams you know they’re going to create some good chances but we knew were going to create our own as well and we just needed to finish them.”

The Ephs came into the game with a vengeance, and wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Just four minutes in, Jacqueline Simeon swung a corner kick in from the right to the far post, where Kristi Kirshe headed it into the back of the open net.

Two minutes later, Kirshe played the ball ahead for her teammate Kristina Alvarado, who was taken down in the box and awarded a penalty kick. Mai Mitsuyama stepped up to the spot and nailed the shot into the bottom left corner, leaving Middlebury keeper Kate Reinmuth ’17 helpless.

“We gave up the goals and it was frustrating, but it’s kind of indicative of how the season has gone,” Kim said. “We’ve had a lot of setbacks on and off the field and we’ve kept our focus and kept looking ahead. I think the whole game we felt like we were going to come back until the dying minutes. It could have been anyone’s game and it’s unfortunate it was a couple of set pieces that determined the game because you never like to see that.”

Despite being two goals down, Middlebury refused to back down. They almost came up with an answer 18 minutes in when Katherine Hobbs’ ’17 shot sailed just high. Their perseverance was rewarded in the 33rd minute through the hard work of Adrianna Gildner ’17. The fifth-leading scorer in the NESCAC unleashed a 20-yard effort from the right side that sailed into the upper left hand corner to cut the deficit to one going into the halfway point.

The second half settled into a back-and-forth affair, and the Panthers seemed to have the slight upper hand as they pushed to tie the game. Alvarado had a chance reestablish Williams’ two goal lead, but Reinmuth made the save.

In the final 10 minutes of the game, the Panthers turned it up a gear in search of a goal to tie the game and send it to overtime. Gildner sent a 35-yard free kick into the box where Amy Martin’s ’18 corralled it and shot, but was denied by keeper Tressa Palcheck. Just moments later, a Gildner shot rebounded to Hannah Robinson ’16. The Panther midfielder shot, but Palcheck made a full-extension save to keep Middlebury off the scoreboard and ultimately seal the Williams win.

Middlebury outshot its opponent 16-7, and Reinmuth made three saves, while Palcheck was credited with five.

Gildner believed that for most of the game the Panthers could walk away with the win.

“I think the best part of our play against Williams was that for almost the entire game we managed to play our style, stay connected, and stay positive as a team,” she said. “We possessed the ball and had a lot of opportunities on goal, but we weren’t able to capitalize on them, which unfortunately is just how soccer is sometimes.”

The Panthers graduate two seniors, Jamie Soroka ’16 and Robinson, who started 46 and 60 games in their career respectively. However, with much of the team returning, Kim is optimistic about the future.

“We have a lot of great young players and good team chemistry,” Kim said. “At the same time, while we’re not graduating a lot of players we’re graduating tremendous ability, so filling those shoes is going to take a lot of people.”

Despite this heartbreak, there are many positives to take away from the season and the evolution of the team.

“I think the way the team came together following so many tough setbacks — especially losing so many players — and some heartbreaking decisions on top of that really is a testament to their character,” Kim said. “The team really stuck together playing amazing soccer at the end of the season. It’s kind of tragic it ended the way it did because we really were hitting our stride.”

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