Men’s Soccer Makes a Stand in Saward’s Last Game

By RILEY PLANT

The men’s soccer team (12-7) saw its season come to a close last Saturday, Nov. 11, in the first round of the NCAA tournament as they fell 1-0 to Stevens University (12-6-2). It was the team’s 11th 1–0 decision of the season, and the loss means that they finish 9–2 in one point games.

Despite edging Stevens 9-6 in shots, 4-2 in shots on goal and 4-2 in corner kicks, Middlebury was charged with a handball in the penalty box in the 89th minute, resulting in a Stevens penalty kick which Kevin Brito ‘20 of Stevens was able to net for the game winner.

The Panthers controlled the first half and outshot Stevens 7–1. Forward Brandon Reid ’21, arguably the team’s most consistently delivering player throughout the season, had three chances in the first half. The first came in the 12th minute when he found space in the box but sent a shot just wide. In the 35th minute, Reid again almost managed to find the back of the net for his teammates when he connected with a well-placed corner kick from the foot of Ben Potter ’20, but the chance was denied by Stevens goalie Aaron Henry. Reid saw another set-piece opportunity in the 39th minute, but again was denied.

In the second half, Drew Goulart ‘20 had the first of the Panthers’ opportunities when he found himself alone against the Stevens goal-keeper in the 51st. Again though, Aaron Henry saved the shot, and maybe even the game, for Stevens. 10 minutes later, Daniel O’Grady ’19 also had a chance and ripped a shot from 15 yards out, but he was just high as the ball skipped off of the top-crossbar.

With just two minutes left in regulation, Stevens got a steal in the Middlebury attacking third and sent a long ball to the front where several Stevens and Middlebury players were gathered.

After a couple touches as Stevens tried to feel out a good opportunity, Andrew Masur decided to unleash an attempt from just inside the 15-yard box. A Middlebury defender found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as the shot bounced off his hand, which gave Brito the opportunity of the day. Taking the penalty kick, he knocked the ball into the back of the net easily and won the day for Stevens.

Middlebury did manage to get one last opportunity off of a 90th minute Goulart corner kick, but the attempt was punched away, sending Stevens on in the tournament and Middlebury home. Stevens’ goalkeeper tallied 4 saves while Yeager managed 1 save out of 2 shots on goal.

The Panthers will graduate five senior players this year, including Yeager, Jed Sass ’18, Brad Willis ’18, Enzo Wiener ’18 and Trevor Schmitt ’18. The five players will leave Middlebury with a four-year record of 44-9-16.

“I’m gutted not to send coach Saward out with a Nescac title,” said Enzo Wiener, a captain. Wiener reflected on the whirlwind that the last two weeks has been for this team:

“We battled the defending national champions last week in a game that truly could’ve gone either way. After the grit we showed, I couldn’t be more excited to see what this team does next year and the years after, for they have the talent to be a top team in the country, and I am confident that coach Elias will lead this incredible group to new heights.”

As Wiener mentioned, also departing will be the team’s long-time coach, David Saward. Saward has been in the role for 33 years and notched 359 career wins. However, Saward was less concerned with the immediate loss and more reflective and grateful for his time serving our school.

“I am very proud of the team . . . [and] loved every moment here of my job. The people I have had the privilege to coach have been magnificent and that includes 21 years of coaching the women’s Squash team and 33 years of soccer players,” he said.

“I have been so lucky to work with so many exceptional coach/educator professionals in our department from whom I have learned so much about the craft of being an effective coach.

“Finally I have been so fortunate to have worked under three truly outstanding Athletic Directors in Tom Lawson, Russ Reilly and most recently Erin Quinn. Without their tremendous leadership the collegial atmosphere around our department would not exist.

“In leaving the program with Alex Elias I know I leave it in very capable hands. Alex was a fabulous player here who has turned into a thoughtful professional who will take the program forward to greater heights.”

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Men’s Soccer Makes a Stand in Saward’s Last Game