Panther men’s soccer season ends on penalty kicks

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s soccer team was ousted from the NESCAC tournament by visiting Wesleyan, 5-4 on penalty kicks after a 0-0 final, in a Saturday semifinal.
Despite the Panthers’ 14-2-2 record and second-place regular-season NESCAC finish, Middlebury was snubbed on Monday for an at-large bid in the NCAA Division III tournament.
Bowdoin defeated Wesleyan on Sunday to earn NESCAC’s automatic NCAA berth. Understandably, the selection committee also tabbed NESCAC regular season champion Amherst (14-1-1) for a spot in the NCAA tournament.
However, the inclusion of Tufts (9-4-3) as the third NESCAC representative at the Panthers’ expense appears to be a statistical oddity, although the Jumbos did defeat the Panthers — by 1-0 at home — during the regular season.
But Tufts won five fewer games overall, had a worse league record in the regular season than Middlebury (5-2-3 as opposed to the Panthers’ 7-2-1), and did not advance as far in the NESCAC playoffs as the Panthers — the Jumbos were upset in the quarterfinal round by No. 6 Bowdoin.
On the other hand, the Panthers could have taken care of business vs. the 8-8-2 Cardinals on Saturday, when they failed to score in regulation and two overtimes despite a 19-11 advantage in shots on goal.
In the 27th minute, Middlebury’s Greg Conrad headed a ball that was saved by Wesleyan goalkeeper Jack Katkavich. The rebound came to Kyle Moffat, but Wesleyan’s Charlie Gruner saved his header off the line. About a minute later, Wesleyan’s Max Jones chipped a loose ball in the Middlebury penalty box just over the crossbar.
In the 35th minute, Adam Glaser sent a through ball to Conrad, but Katkavich made a diving save to keep things scoreless. Katkavich ended the half with six saves, while Middlebury’s Greg Sydor recorded a pair.
In the 49th minute, Katcavich dove again to deny an 18-yard bid by Kirk Horton. Almost 10 minutes later, Conrad redirected a cross just wide to the right of the Cardinal goal. The Cardinals nearly took the lead in the 73rd minute, but Chris Kafina’s shot went wide left.
The first overtime saw Middlebury almost tally the winning goal in the 96th minute, when Deklan Robinson’s header on a set piece went just right of the far post. The second 10-minute overtime saw Wesleyan have opportunities in the 103rd and 106th minutes on attempts by Adam Howie-Caskell and Kafina, but Sydor made excellent saves on each shot.
The teams went to penalty kicks with Sydor in goal for the Panthers and Nick Jackson, who started the match in the field, moving to goalie for Wesleyan. Middlebury missed its first attempt, but the teams converted their ensuing eight tries. With the score tied at 4-4, Wesleyan’s Dylan Hoy buried the ball into the center of the net for the fifth conversion.
There was some controversy after Sydor made one save, but officials ruled he moved too early, and the Cardinal kicker was awarded a second shot that he converted.
Sydor was credited with five saves for Middlebury, while Katkavich turned away eight stops.

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