Men’s Soccer Falls in NCAA Match

By ERIK ARVIDSSON

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN/THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS
Ben Potter ’20 races to celebrate with his teammates after scoring a goal during the Oct. 20 matchup against Bates.

The Middlebury men’s soccer team had an anxious final two weeks of its season. After falling to Williams on Saturday, Oct. 27 in the NESCAC quarterfinals, the team had to wait a week while still practicing to see if its season would continue. After receiving the news that they had earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament last Monday, the Panthers’ season was extended another week.

On Saturday, Nov. 10, the Panthers headed to Amherst, Massachusetts, for a first-round NCAA tournament matchup against Saint Joseph’s of Maine. Saint Joseph’s entered the matchup with an astounding 20-0 record, having only let in one goal the entire season. Although Saint Joseph’s typical level of competition is much lower than Middlebury’s NESCAC foes, Saint Joseph’s played NESCAC rival Bowdoin during the regular season and beat them 1-0. Although facing an undefeated opponent is always intimidating, captain Peter David ’19 noted that the Panthers felt ready for the challenge, saying, “We went in feeling very prepared. They are a good team, but we matched up with them well.”

Amid freezing temperatures and howling winds, the Panthers started out by pushing the ball forward and forcing Saint Joseph’s to defend their attack. The Panthers created opportunity after opportunity, but finding the back of the net proved to be difficult, as the game ended in a 2-1 loss for Middlebury.

In the 35th minute, despite being dominated by the Panthers, Saint Joseph’s scored the first goal of the match. The Monks played the ball into the box, and Middlebury was unable to clear it immediately. After the loose ball came down in the 18, Noah Robinson of Saint Joseph’s managed to get a foot on it, volleying the ball into the bottom left corner to make the score 1-0.

The Panthers fought hard for the equalizer. They continued to dominate possession and got the majority of the chances. Middlebury took 15 shots, with eight on goal, compared to Saint Joseph’s seven, with four on goal. All throughout the second half the Panthers created opportunity after opportunity, and finally their break came. In the 79th minute, Drew Goulart ’20 played the ball through to Daniel O’Grady ’19. The St. Joe’s keeper got off of his line while O’Grady managed to loft the ball into the net from roughly 20 yards out.

The Panthers looked to have turned the tide of the match. They continued to press and create more chances. However, in the 86th minute Middlebury gave up a free kick to St. Joseph’s on the left flank. The Monks’ Quinn Hewitt headed the ball into the goal off the service from Dalton Gaumer.

At the end of the day the Monks shifted their chances, with 50 percent of their shots on goal ending up in the back of the net compared to Middlebury’s mere 12 percent. 

“Effectively it came down to finishing on set pieces. We created a lot of really good opportunities. But they were able to finish theirs and we weren’t,” Kyle Moffat ’19 said. “I thought the score should’ve been 4-2. But all the credit to them, they played tough and scored when it mattered the most.” 

This was a devastating way for the soccer careers of many of the seniors to come to a close. However, Peter Davis ’19 noted that the boys felt lucky to have come this far. Had the final game of the year been the NESCAC quarterfinal loss to Williams, they would have been much more distraught.

“I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet, but that’s probably the toughest part of it. You put so much into this for four years. Us, going out the way we did, losing in the NCAA tournament, is better than not being there. We know how [well] we played, and I think it would have been different had we lost to Williams,” Moffat said.

When asked about where the program is headed, both Davis and Moffat seemed optimistic. “The team had a fun, positive atmosphere this year. I think we reestablished Middlebury, by going to the NCAA tournament the last two years, as a significant player in DIII soccer. It had been since 2010 since we made the tournament. I think that my class rallied around elevating the level of play and our standing in the NESCAC,” Moffat said.

When asked about his time as a Panther as well as how the rising juniors will step in and lead the team, Captain Peter Davis ’19 seemed optimistic about the future of the program.

“Being a captain, I would say, was my proudest moment of being affiliated with the program,” Davis said. “It was more than I expected going into it. You’re so in it when you’re a captain. They’re going to be so fine. A lot of the guys in the junior class stood up and took more leadership roles. They have made the NCAA tournament two years in a row. They know what it takes and are ready to step up into those senior roles. Being a fan is going to suck, but I am excited about seeing where these guys go in the future.”

Although its season ended in a tough way, the men’s soccer team provided plenty of thrills and quality play this season. With back-to-back tournament appearances under its belt, the program is progressing and looking to take it one step further next year.

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Men’s Soccer Falls in NCAA Match