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Middlebury men move on to semis on PKs, 5-4

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s soccer team won its home NESCAC quarterfinal vs. Wesleyan on Saturday in dramatic fashion, as goalie Greg Sydor stopped two consecutive Cardinal penalty kicks to help the Panthers advance, 5-4, in a penalty-kick shootout after the teams finished regulation and two overtimes in a 1-1 tie.
The 9-3-4 Panthers, seeded fourth in the NESCAC tournament, advanced to the league’s final four, which No. 2 Amherst will host this weekend. Middlebury will meet sixth-seeded Bowdoin on Saturday at 11 a.m., and the Jeffs will take on No. 8 Connecticut at 1:30 p.m. The championship game will be played at noon on Sunday. This fall, the Panthers defeated Bowdoin, 2-0; tied Amherst, 1-1, and topped Connecticut, 2-0.
No. 5 Wesleyan finished its season at 8-5-3 in what will be counted as a tie on the team’s records.
Wesleyan had the best chances to score in the first half, but could not get on the board. About four minutes in, Chris Kafina took a hard shot at the right side of the goal that was stopped by defender Kirk Horton. In the 23rd minute, Hans Erickson had a good look in the middle of the box, but his shot sailed high.
The Cardinals broke through 53:36 into the game with a goal from Kafina. Brandon Sousa worked a give and go with Omar Bravo before making a feed to Kafina, who slid a shot into the right side of the net.
Wesleyan nearly put the game out of reach in the 84th minute, but Sydor made a big save in a one-on-one situation with Sousa.
Middlebury’s Tom Bean tied the game up with 4:11 remaining with his second goal of the fall. Bean netted the rebound of a Noah Goss-Wiener’s shot by finishing to the left side of the goal.
The Cardinals had another chance with about three minutes to go, but Sydor got a hand on a shot from Kafina, who broke in all alone.
Following a pair of scoreless overtimes, the game moved on to penalty kicks. The Cardinals got off to a great start when goalie Emmett McConnell made a diving save to his right on Goss-Woliner’s opening bid. Ben Bratt converted for Wesleyan to give them a 1-0 lead after one round.
With the shootout knotted at 4-4, Charlie Gruner had a chance to win it for Wesleyan, but Sydor dove to his right and made the save to force an extra round. Horton then blasted a shot into the left side to put Middlebury on top, 5-4.
Adam Cowie-Haskell had to convert to keep the Cardinals’ hopes alive, but Sydor moved quickly to his left to deny his shot to the right side, and the Panthers advanced to the semifinals.
Shots in the game were tied at 12-12, with Sydor (eight saves) and McConnell (three saves) both playing 110 minutes. Sydor was named NESCAC player of the week.

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