Men’s Soccer Lives Life on the Edge

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Men’s Soccer Lives Life on the Edge

A puzzled Hamilton defender reacts after Jed Sass ’18 scores the lone goal in the Panthers’ 1-0 victory in a Nescac tilt last Sunday.

A puzzled Hamilton defender reacts after Jed Sass ’18 scores the lone goal in the Panthers’ 1-0 victory in a Nescac tilt last Sunday.

Silvia Cantu

A puzzled Hamilton defender reacts after Jed Sass ’18 scores the lone goal in the Panthers’ 1-0 victory in a Nescac tilt last Sunday.

Silvia Cantu

Silvia Cantu

A puzzled Hamilton defender reacts after Jed Sass ’18 scores the lone goal in the Panthers’ 1-0 victory in a Nescac tilt last Sunday.

By RILEY PLANT

The men’s soccer team (4–1–0, 2–1–0) added two wins to their name in what was a doubleheader weekend last week with two big 1–0 victories over Nescac foes: No. 10 Amherst on Saturday, Sept. 16, and over Hamilton on Sunday, Sept. 17. As the Panthers extended their win streak to three games, coach David Saward surpassed the 350-win mark, moving his career record to 351–120–59. Jed Sass ’18 scored the lone goal in both games and goalkeeper Jeremy Yeager ’18 notched his first two shutouts of the season.

During their conference road match with Amherst (1–1–0, 1–1–0) on Saturday, the first 51 minutes were a defensive battle. Each team only managed two shots on goal. Eventually, however, Amherst slipped and issued a foul which resulted in a direct kick opportunity from the top of the penalty area for Sass. The senior captain ripped a left-bending shot into the corner past the hands of Amherst goalkeeper Lee Owen to notch what would prove to be the game winner.

In the 76th minute, Drew Goulart ’20 had an opportunity to cushion the lead with a close range shot, but was denied by Amherst goalie, Michael Stone, who had just been substituted in for Owen.

In an 89th minute attempt to match Middlebury’s goal, an Amherst throw in ended up in the Middlebury net, but was ruled invalid as the ball failed to touch another player before crossing the goal line.

Middlebury returned home on Sunday to meet Hamilton (3–2–1, 1–2–0). The previous time the teams had met was when the Continentals defeated the Panthers 2–1 in last season’s Nescac semifinals. But Sunday’s game went differently.

Another unassisted goal by Sass and four saves from Yeager led the team to redemption.

While quality shots were infrequent in the first half, Hamilton’s Aidan Wood nearly netted a goal in the 14th minute. Wood’s initial eight yard shot was knocked away by Yeager to his left, where Hamilton’s Jefri Schmidt gobbled up the rebound and sent a subsequent point blank shot into the hands of Yeager.

Five minutes into the second half, Wood would have another chance as he sent a right-side bending ball from 15 yards away, but was again denied by the diving Panther goalie, who was just able to punch the shot away.

In the 54th minute, Middlebury midfielder Sass one-touched a torching shot into the post off a bouncing ball in the Hamilton penalty area. He found the rebound at the six-yard line and tapped it in, pushing the Panthers ahead 1–0, where the score would remain.

“Losing our opening Nescac game to Connecticut College put us in a position where both matches against Amherst and Hamilton were essentially must-wins if we were realistically going to put ourselves in a position compete for the Nescac title,” Sass said. “The challenge for us now is to bring out the same fight every time we cross those white lines. These wins were two massive steps in the right direction and leave us hungry for more.”

Middlebury will continue on their journey to a Nescac title when they are back in action in Brunswick, Maine, on Saturday to take on Bowdoin (4–1–0, 2–1–0).

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