MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College women’s soccer team won two recent NESCAC contests to clinch first place in the league and home-field advantage throughout the league playoffs. The winner of the league postseason clinches an NCAA Division III tournament berth.
The Panthers (10-1-2, 8-1 NESCAC) are ranked No. 14 in NCAA D-III and are unbeaten since a 1-0 overtime loss at Amherst in their season opener. Middlebury returns to action this Saturday at Wesleyan, and will host a NESCAC quarterfinal on Nov. 2.
On this past Saturday, Julia Favorito scored the game’s only goal in the 53rd minute as Middlebury defeated host Bates 1-0. The Panthers nearly doubled their total in the 56th and 63rd minutes with shots that went just wide, while the Bobcats (3-7-1, 1-6-1) nearly found the equalizer in the 86th minute.
On the scoring play, Middlebury’s Jamie Soroka fired a shot on net from 12 yards away that Bates goalkeeper Anabel Schmelz (eight saves) knocked away. The ball eventually found its way to Favorito, who slotted the ball into the right side of the goal for her fourth of the season. Middlebury goalkeeper Elizabeth Foody made two saves for her fourth shutout of the season.
Tuesday’s game with visiting Williams saw first place in NESCAC on the line, and the Panthers prevailed when Scarlett Kirk scored the game-winner with 50 seconds left in a 1-0 victory over the No. 22 Ephs (8-2-2, 5-2-1).
Kirk had a good look in the 38th minute, but her blast from 30 yards out sailed just high. The Ephs threatened late in the half after a cross created a scrum in the goal area, but the ball was eventually cleared away.
The second half featured fewer scoring chances. The game-winner came in transition. Carter Talgo played a ball up the left side to Kirk, who ran onto it just inside the 18. Williams’ keeper Hannah Van Wetter came out to challenge the play, but Kirk chipped a shot past her and inside the far post. The goal was her team-leading ninth of the season, tying her for the NESCAC lead. Kirk now owns 40 goals in 64 career games.
Middlebury outshot Williams, 13-4, but the Ephs held a 5-1 edge in corner kicks. Foody made three stops, while Van Wetter also finished with three saves for the Ephs, who saw their unbeaten streak snapped at eight games.