November 2, 2009

The Panther men's soccer team advanced to the NESCAC semifinals after a 2-1 quarterfinal win at Amherst. The Panthers will take on the host school from Wesleyan at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 7th, while Williams meets Bowdoin in the other semifinal at 1:30 p.m. The winners meet for the NESCAC Championship at noon on Sunday. Junior back Harrison Watkins (San Francisco, Calif.) scored both Panther goals in a 2-1 win, including the game-winner in the 89th minute of regulation.

Amherst nearly scored the game's opening goal just 20 seconds into the contest, after a long throw by Chris Devine was flicked on by an Ian Rothkopf header for Casey McNamara to run onto in the six yard box. McNamara half-volleyed a shot on frame, but sophomore goalie Tim Cahill (S. Glastonbury, Conn.) kept the shot out with a right-handed save.

In the 16th minute, Middlebury senior Andrew Banadda (Gaithersburg, Md.) broke free down the right side of the Amherst goal box. Amherst goalie Lennard Kovacs met Banadda ten yards out to force a shot from a tough angle which caromed wide of the right post.

With 13 minutes to play in the first half, Amherst's Robert Gooden beat Cahill in a foot race to a bouncing ball in the Middlebury box. Gooden slid in, gained control and stood up behind the Panther keeper with possession. Gooden's shot seconds later curved just wide of the left post.

With just six minutes to play in the first half, Middlebury took a 1-0 lead on a set piece just inside the Amherst half. After a long service, senior Mike Spiak (Andover, Mass.) flicked a header into the space in front of Kovacs. As the Amherst keeper came off his line, Watkins pounced on the ball and popped a one-touch shot over Kovacs and into the Amherst net.

In the 54th minute, Banadda broke in once again and hit a shot off a high bounce that Kovacs deflected down to Matt Lewis' feet to clear from danger.

Amherst nearly equalized in the 63rd minute as G.L. Genco found Rothkopf with a second service on a Lord Jeff rush. Rothkopf rose in a crowd to win a header, but pushed the shot just wide of the Middlebury frame.

With just under 15 minutes remaining in the second half, Gooden was substituted in as a forward in exchange for Amherst defender Dave Masterman. Just 32 seconds after entering the field, Gooden combined with Genco on a give and go, before playing a through ball for McNamara to run onto in the Middlebury box. As Cahill came off his line, McNamara slotted a calm finish underneath the Panther backstop to tie the game 1-1 with 14:11 to play.

Middlebury later earned a corner kick from the right side of the field and made the late dead ball kick count when it mattered. Junior Jake Edwards (Easton, Conn.) took the corner, and Watkins blasted home a diving header to put the Panthers on top 2-1, with just 48 seconds to play. The goal was his team-leading sixth of the season for the Middlebury back.

The score held up as the game-winner, as Amherst never got the ball into the Middlebury end in the final seconds. Cahill made two saves for Middlebury, while Kovacs turned away three shots for Amherst./p>

In the regular season finale on Friday, Middlebury scored the game's only goal 16:17 into the contest as the Panthers earned a 1-0 victory over Williams.

Middlebury struck somewhat early with a beautiful goal on a restart. Edwards took the free kick from just outside the box on the corner of the 18. His left-footed hooking blast was redirected with a great header goal from Watkins to give the Panthers the 1-0 lead. The tally was the second of the season for Watkins, as Edwards earned his team-leading fourth assist.

Williams had a great chance to tie the game in the 34th minute, but Cahill made a nice save on Nick Pugliese from close range. The game remained at 1-0 into the second half, where the Ephs had another opportunity, this one coming in the 74th minute. Pierre Meloty-Kapella gained some space and let a blast go from inside the box, but Cahill was there to make the save. The Panthers looked to gain some breathing room in the 80th minute, but junior Carson Cornbrooks' (Williston, Vt.) header on a Banadda cross went just wide.

Williams had one last chance in the final minute with a scramble in the Panther box, but Cahill was finally able to put his hands on the ball to end the threat.

Cahill ended the game with five saves to earn his fifth shutout of the season. Andrew Graham made four saves for Williams.
. Men's soccer record: 9-4-2
. Up next: 11/7 vs. Wesleyan - NESCAC Semifinals - 11:00, 11/8 - Championship - 12:00