Men’s soccer nets at-large NCAA bid
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s soccer team fell to Tufts in Sunday’s NESCAC final in a game played at Amherst, but the 8-3-7 Panthers received a bid to the NCAA Division III tournament for the third straight season and 13th time overall.
Coach Alex Elias’ Panthers will travel to an NCAA Regional tournament at Rensselaer this Saturday and Sunday. The Panthers will face Johnson & Wales (17-2-2) at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, after host RPI (14-2-2) meets Eastern Nazarene (16-3) at 11 a.m. The winners will meet in the Regional final on Sunday at 1 p.m. The winner will advance to a Sectional at a site to be announced on the following Monday.
On the field on this past Sunday defending NCAA champion Tufts edged the Panthers, 2-1, in the NESCAC final. The second-seeded Jumbos scored the game-winner with 2:10 to go to earn their second one-goal victory over the Panthers this fall and earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Middlebury, making its 10th appearance in a NESCAC final after advancing as the No. 6 seed, controlled possession for the most of the first 20 minutes, but the Jumbos created chances in the rest of the half. In the 26th minute Zach Lane ripped a right-footed shot from inside the box on which Panther goalie Ryan Grady made a kick save.
Two minutes later Middlebury had its best chance of the half when Brendan Barry beat Tufts keeper Erich Kindermann to a 50-50 ball near the penalty-kick dot, but his shot hit Kindermann and deflected away. Grady made two highlight saves late in the half, using his knee to deny a close-range bid by Alex Ratzan and thwarting Ian Daly’s half volley at the left post.
The Jumbos took the lead at 32:24 of the second-half. Max Jacobs sent a low shot on a cross from Gavin Tasker into the bottom right corner..
The Panthers knotted the contest with 11:03 remaining when Max Drazen gathered a loose ball, touched it around a Jumbo defender, and blasted a shot from 30 yards out that skipped into the left side of the goal.
Joseph Braun netted the game-winner. Calvin Aroh lofted a ball into the middle that Braun chested down and volleyed just under the crossbar.
The Jumbos outshot the Panthers, 20-9. Grady made nine saves, while Kindermann made two saves for Tufts.
On Saturday Panthers (8-2-7) knocked off top-seeded and top-ranked host Amherst (14-1-2) 1-0.
Ben Potter put the Panthers on the scoreboard with 15:25 elapsed. Brandon Reid carried down the left side and sent a ball into the box that was batted around before Potter ripped a right-footed volley from 25 yards that went off the left post and in.
The Mammoths had a chance in the 22nd minute when Cutler Coleman headed a ball from eight yards that Grady stopped for his lone save of the half.
In the second half Amherst had chances. In the 56th minute German Giammattei, the NESCAC’s leading goal scorer, was high on a header, and Grady denied a turnaround blast from Ignacio Cubbedu. In the 75th minute, Grady handled a shot from the left.
The Panthers controlled much of the play late and defended a series of long throw-ins to nail down the upset.
Amherst outshot Middlebury, 19-5 shots, but the Panthers limited them to four shots on target that Grady handled. The shutout was the ninth of the season for the Middlebury defense.
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