Women’s Soccer Notches Two Weekend Wins

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Women’s Soccer Notches Two Weekend Wins

Middlebury Women's Soccer

Middlebury Women's Soccer

Emma Stapleton

Middlebury Women's Soccer

Emma Stapleton

Emma Stapleton

Middlebury Women's Soccer

By ROB ERICKSON

After a heartbreaking loss against Connecticut College to open conference play a week ago, the Middlebury women’s soccer team got its season back on track with a pair of thrilling Nescac contests this past weekend. On Saturday, Sept. 16, the Panthers travelled to Amherst to square off against a Mammoth team that came into the weekend ranked 12th in the country; rising to the occasion, Middlebury was able to come away with a 2–1 victory. The team wasted no time hopping on the bus and shipping back home, where they hosted the Hamilton Continentals the following Sunday, Sept. 17. Although they trailed 1–0 until the 88th minute, the Panthers found a way to get on the board as the clock wound down and force the game into extra minutes. After two hard-fought overtimes, the game concluded in a 1–1 tie.

With four points total from the weekend (the win counting for three and the tie for one), the Panthers now share fourth place in the conference standings with the Continentals.

Back Clare Robinson ’19, who had a key goal on a set piece in the Amherst game, felt good about where the team stood at the end of the weekend, all things considered. “I think our team did very well this weekend,” she concluded. “Since it was a doubleheader, saving our energy and our legs definitely was a priority. Four points from the weekend is a really good outcome in Nescac play.”

That’s not to say she didn’t think the team had room to improve, though. “There were really good moments in our team’s performance in both games,” she explained, “but I think as a whole we wished we had capitalized on more of our chances. In both games we went down 0–1 in the first half, and we had to fight really hard throughout the entire game to come back and get the win on Saturday and the tie on Sunday.”

Against the Mammoths, that deficit came quite unexpectedly when Amherst laced a shot from 40 yards out that bounced over the head of keeper Ursula Alwang ’20 to open the scoring. Aside from that, however, Alwang was an absolute wall in front of the goal. Even though Amherst finished with twice as many shots on target (eight to Middlebury’s four), she was able to keep the ball from finding the back of the net for the rest of the game, finishing with six saves on the day.

Meanwhile, the Middlebury offense was able to create just enough opportunities to equalize the score and eventually turn the game in their favor. In the 44th minute, the Panthers found a little family connection. Robinson recounted the sequence afterwards: “Since we went down early in the first half, that definitely gave Amherst a little bit of momentum. I came in halfway through the half and really wanted to help my team come back to tie the game.

“With a few minutes left in the fist half, my younger sister (midfielder Eliza Robinson ’21) was fouled outside the box. She took the free kick as our team flooded in. I knew where her cross was going so I made sure to be there, and headed the ball in the goal — and it was that much more exciting because my little sister got the assist.” The goal was the elder Robinson’s first in a Middlebury uniform.

Sixteen minutes into the second half, the Panthers launched an attack that would net them their second goal of the game and put them up for good. Handling the ball in Mammoth territory, back Gretchen McGrath ’21 found midfielder Amanda Dafonte ’20 with a short pass; Dafonte proceeded to fire a laser just under the top crossbar and out of the Amherst keeper’s reach. Although the Mammoths would threaten to score a few times later on, Middlebury’s defense proved enough to secure them the win, 2–1.

At home against Hamilton on Sunday, the Panthers found themselves on the other side of the table in terms of chances. They outshot the Continentals 17–8; after Hamilton closed the first half with a goal, the Panthers dominated the ball in the second period, leading by twelve shots to one. However, they were only able to capitalize on one of those chances, and it came a little later than the Panthers would’ve liked: with 1:50 before the final whistle, the younger Robinson marked her second assist of the weekend when she chipped a pass that forward Eliza Van Voorhis ’21 headed in. Both teams had their opportunities in the two overtime periods, but neither was able to tally a goal before the second extra ten-minute period expired.
In the future, the Panthers’ success will depend on their ability to convert as many of those chances as possible. Head coach Peter Kim has faith in his players’ ability to get better as the season goes on. “The team is young and dynamic, with lots of potential to create sharp, attack-minded soccer,” he said. “We’re still coming together on the field, and will continue to improve in the coming weeks.”

Robinson shared her coach’s optimism. “We are in a very good spot coming out of the weekend,” she offered. “As much as we wanted 6 points, I think we are happy with the results. Heading into this next weekend, we need to stay focused. I think we will work on finishing a lot this week, because we are such a good team and really want to capitalize on all of our opportunities.”

Next weekend, the Panthers will head over to Brunswick, Maine to take on the Bowdoin on Saturday, Sept. 23. The Polar Bears come into the came with an 0–2–1 record in conference play.

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