Women’s Soccer Opens Conference with Tough Loss to Camels

By ROB ERICKSON

Kicking off the conference schedule at its own Dragone Field, the Middlebury women’s soccer team suffered a gut-wrenching overtime loss to NESCAC foe Conn. College this past Saturday, Sept. 9. The Panthers seemed to control the pace of the game and were able to put seven shots on goal to the Camels’ three, but unfortunately couldn’t find the back of the net during regulation: Conn secured a 1–0 victory with a tally 6:10 into the first overtime period.

Head Coach Peter Kim had a positive take on the performance, especially given the circumstances that his squad was missing its first-year players to the weekend MiddView trips. “The team played very well,” he said afterwards. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish, hitting the crossbar three times and forcing several big saves from Conn’s keeper . . . We were missing eight key players due to orientation, so we were unable to keep fresh legs in the game as much as we would have liked. We did a good job breaking Conn’s defense down, but ultimately succumbed to the pressure with a brief lapse on a counterattack.”

On the offensive end, forward Ellie Greenberg ’20 paced the Panthers’ charge, leading the team with three shots on target in four attempts. In the closing seconds of the first half, she received a through pass on a Middlebury attack and fired what seemed to be a sure score toward the right post, only to have the ball deflected just beyond the post by the Camel goalie. She nearly put the game away in overtime as well: Three minutes in, she ripped a shot from 18 yards out that smacked off the crossbar and rebounded straight down, never crossing the goal line.

Another big contributor for the Panthers on Saturday was midfielder Virginia Charman ’20. She totaled four shot attempts and kept the pressure on the Camels in a number of ways beyond that, too.

Captain Alissa Huntington ’18, at the helm of the defense in the center back position, has had a pretty good view of Charman’s impact this season. “It’s been so exciting to watch her so far,” she said. “The way she battles both defensively and challenges offensively by taking on players shows such a fire and results in a contagious energy.”

In fact, from where Huntington stands, the whole midfield has shown quite a bit of promise thus far. “I’m really impressed by our midfield in general,” she said, “because Charman, Sara DiCenso ’19, Caitlin Magruder ’20 and Clare Robinson ’19 have been figuring out their positioning and how to work together as a unit. Especially because they sit right in front of me, I love watching them see how to get out of congested areas, be our pivot players that switch the field, initiate the attack, and battle on defense.”

It’s early in the season, but their coordination and field control will certainly be a key for the Panthers this season each time they take the field.

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, September 6, the Panthers opened their season with a 1–0 win at home over non-conference opponent Colby-Sawyer. Emma Shumway ’18, a midfielder, notched Middlebury’s lone score in the 64th minute. The differential could have been a lot larger, though. Middlebury controlled the ball almost the entire game, firing 11 shots on goal to Colby-Sawyer’s one. The game was a “must-win,” Huntington said, for the Panthers “to start off the season on a positive note. I’m glad we got that result, especially since we realized last year how crucial out of conference games are for NCAA bids.”

After Saturday, the Panthers will certainly welcome their first-year players back with open arms. Even though the team played with plenty of energy, the depth provided by the eight missing players will certainly serve as a shot in the arm. Huntington, who’s looking back from the other end of the spectrum, reflected on the difference three years can make. She recognized that first-years can feel quite a bit of pressure in the more intense college environment. “The biggest difference for me between freshman and senior year is confidence,” she said. “Coming in as a freshman is so tough because you’re playing at the highest speed of play you’ve ever played at — and against stronger, bigger, and more experienced players.”

Looking ahead, confidence will be key for the Middlebury. Coach Kim pointed out that, at the end of the day, the team will need to capitalize upon the advantages they create. “The key to success will be honing our ability to score goals,” he said. “In both of our first two games, we were the dominant team but failed to score off the chances we created.”

If the Panthers can have confidence in their ability to convert when they put themselves in a position to do so, they’ll certainly be a force to be reckoned with in the Nescac this season.

Middlebury has two big conference matchups this weekend: on the road against Amherst on Saturday, September 16, and back home against Hamilton on Sunday, September 17.

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