Women’s Soccer Shoots More, Scores Less

By ROB ERICKSON

This past Saturday, Sept. 23, a tough contest against Nescac foe Bowdoin saw the Middlebury women’s soccer team fall victim to many of the same troubles that they’ve been dealing with for much of the season. Despite a 17–9 advantage in shots taken and a 9–6 lead in shots on goal, they ultimately couldn’t find the back of the net, and the Polar Bears handed the Panthers a 2–0 defeat.

Coming into the game, Middlebury was prepared for a dogfight. Midfielder Amanda Dafonte ’19, one of the team’s three captains, said, “Bowdoin is a very good team, and they always give us one of the hardest games we play in the season. So we knew this weekend was going to be a challenge.”

In the short Nescac schedule, every game is more or less equally important. But with the Panthers sitting at 1–1–1 in the conference before the weekend, this match represented a chance to gain some momentum as the season approaches the midway point.

And the coach said Middlebury rose to that challenge.

“We outplayed them in many ways, and were the better team in terms of possession, shots and overall run of play,” said head coach Peter Kim, giving his players the credit they deserved.

“However, Bowdoin was organized and extremely tenacious, and we did not match their intensity or physicality.”

In the earlier portion of the first period, the Panthers came so close to finding the back of the net on several occasions. In quick succession, back Sarah DiCenso ’19 had a shot on goal knocked away by a jumping save from the Bowdoin keeper, and midfielder Virginia Charman ’20 sent a ball just inches over the crossbar. Shortly thereafter, midfielder Emma Shumway ’18 bounced a corner kick off the far post that the Polar Bear goalie was able to quickly smother.

But as the first half was winding down, Bowdoin managed to score two unassisted goals, back-to-back, by capitalizing upon Middlebury errors to take a 2–0 lead.

In turn, the Panthers opened the second half with a flurry of near misses from Dafonte and Charman but couldn’t convert. After that, the match turned into something of a defensive showdown, and neither team came particularly close to scoring again.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Panthers stood at 1–2–1 in the conference.

Looking at the team’s record, coach Kim couldn’t help but point out a recurring theme over the past few weeks.

“All in all, we’re disappointed with our conference record so far,” he said. “We felt we dominated in each of the games but have struggled to score consistently. The longer we’ve gone without scoring, the greater chance we’ve given our opponents to nick one on us.

“In the Connecticut, Bowdoin, and Hamilton games, we failed to put away our chances, then suffered one or two lapses of concentration that cost us the results. To be sure, we’ve had some tough bounces as well, having beaten the keeper multiple times in each of those games, only to be denied by the crossbar or goal post.”

He summarized, “Moving forward, we’re just going to have to make our own luck.”

The team still has reason to be optimistic. As Dafonte emphasized, six conference games remain on Middlebury’s schedule, so there’s plenty of time to put a strong run together.

“I’m extremely excited about this team and our future this season,” she said. “We have a very talented team starting from the experience and leadership of our seniors to the new flare that the first-years bring. We have so much potential to have a winning season, and I think we will.”

She concluded on a resoundingly positive note. “While our position in the Nescac is not where we want it to be right now, it’s still very early. I know we will get the job done from here on out. Right now the focus is one game at a time — we have to get the win this Wednesday and the rest will come.”

The Panthers will look to get back on track in conference play with an important matchup against Colby at the team’s own Dragone Field on Saturday, Sept. 30.

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