Women’s Soccer Gets Much Needed Nescac Victory

By ROB ERICKSON

Faced with a crucial conference matchup at the midway point of their regular season, the Middlebury women’s soccer team took care of business against Colby this past Saturday, Sept. 30. By defeating the Mules 1–0, the Panthers improved their Nescac record to 2–2–1 and remain within striking distance of the top teams in the division.

Earlier in the week, Middlebury had warmed up for conference play with a 5–0 drubbing of nonconference opponent Keene State on the road on Wednesday, Sept. 27. On Tuesday, Oct. 3, the Panthers defeated RPI 3–1.The combined wins allowed the Panthers to push their overall record to 6–2–1.

Coming into the week, head coach Peter Kim explained the direction he wanted his players to take, especially given some of the team’s recent struggles to capitalize on scoring opportunities in Nescac play.

“We’re still growing as a relatively young team, so players and units are still trying to find their scoring touch,” he said. “We need to focus heavily on scoring goals, and this will be our focus for the foreseeable future.”

That goal was certainly achieved in the midweek matchup against Keene State, in which the Panthers put up 20 shot attempts to the Owls’ 10. Middlebury likely hoped to win by a more comfortable margin in the Colby matchup. After all, the lead they held in shots was even more substantial against the Mules (19–4 in shot attempts, 8–2 in shots on goal).

So while the Panthers fell prey to some of their old habits against Colby, their stellar work controlling the ball and limiting the Mules’ offensive opportunities should not be overlooked either. Captain Maddie Morgan ’18, who plays defense for Middlebury, made sure to note that at the end of the day, the week’s games didn’t leave too much to complain about.

“Our team came out of the week 2–0,” she said, “which is the best scenario we can ask for. Against Keene State, we were able to get some great goals in. We also were able to put the game away against Colby, which, when it comes down to it, is what matters.”

Saturday’s matchup went scoreless in the first half, in which both teams fought hard but didn’t have much to show for it in the way of shots on goal: both Ursula Alwang ’20 and the Colby goalkeeper only had to make one save apiece. The Panthers did come close to scoring on a pair of corner kicks. About six minutes in, Alex Barber ’19 sent a ball across that Eliza Van Voorhis ’21 redirected toward the goal, only to have it gathered by the Mules’ goalie; later, as the half wound down, Olivia Miller ’20 saw her corner kick headed just over the crossbar by Leah Salzman ’21.

In the second half, the Panthers came out determined to convert on one of their scoring opportunities and wasted little time in doing so. Midfielder Eliza Robinson ’21 sent a free kick from near midfield deep into the penalty box, and Van Voorhis jumped at the chance to funnel it past the Colby keeper and into the back of the net. Not only was the goal Van Voorhis’ third of the season, good for the team lead, but it also provided the occasion for Robinson to garner her third assist, tying her with Ellie Greenberg ’20 for tops on the squad as well.

With that taste fresh in their mouths, the Panthers proceeded to send a flurry of shots on goal in the rest of the half, forcing the Mule keeper to make six more saves before the period ran out. Among these were a low shot from about 18 yards out by Emma Shumway ’18, an attempt by Miller that was punched just over the crossbar, and a ball that Sabrina Glaser ’20 sent just off the near post in the final minutes. However, the Panthers were as dominant defensively in the second half as they were in the first, and when the final buzzer sounded, they had more than earned the 1–0 victory over Colby.

Although Middlebury always plays with an eye toward their postseason — the Nescac championship and the NCAA tournament that follows — Morgan stressed that the team has some more immediate goals in mind as well.

“For now,” she said, “we’re still getting used to the new formation we’re using this year, so I think working out the kinks before those tournaments come is important. There are always things to work on, and I think continuing to get better at finishing in the final third is really important for us as a team.”

Middlebury will take to the road for what might prove to be the most important weekend of their regular season, playing at Tufts on Saturday, Oct. 7, before taking on Wesleyan the next day on Sunday, Oct. 8.

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Women’s Soccer Gets Much Needed Nescac Victory