November 9, 2009

The Panther men's soccer team dropped a 2-1 overtime game to Williams at Wesleyan in their seventh championship game appearance. The Panthers, three-time NESCAC winners, end their season at 9-5-2. Williams moves to 13-2-1 on the season and earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. This was the fifth time that the Panthers and Ephs have met in the championship match in the 10-year history of the tournament.

A strong offensive thrust by Williams forwards junior Gaston Kelly and senior Pierre Meloty-Kapella resulted in an own-goal by Middlebury College 6:25 into overtime, giving second-seeded Williams the win. A serve from the left side by Kelly to the front of the goal was volleyed by Meloty-Kapella during overtime. His shot caromed off the middle of the cross bar, bouncing high in the air in front of the Middlebury net. An attempt to clear the ball by a Middlebury defender went the wrong way off his head and into the top side of the net for the deciding goal.

That thwarted the comeback effort of the Panthers, who trailed 1-0 for a majority of the game after Matt Ratajczak finished off a corner-kick situation in the 37th minute of the contest for the game's opening tally. Senior forward Peter Houston took the corner for the Ephs and bent the ball in toward a maze of players on front of the cage. The first to touch the ball was Williams junior defender Joe Vella and his redirect hit a Middlebury defender and found Ratajczak in front for a tap into the goal. It was his first career goal for the Ephs.

Williams' lead stood up for almost 50 minutes as Williams kept the Panther attack at bay until the 86th minute when sophomore middie Robbie Redmond (Morristown, N.J.) fired a low drive from 25 yards out into the lower left side of the net. Williams senior goalie Andrew Graham had needed to make three saves to that point in holding the Panthers scoreless but had no chance to react to the cannon shot by Redmond, who netted his fourth goal of the season. Junior defender Jake Edwards (Easton, Conn.) made Redmond's goal possible by fighting for possession of a high ball in the offensive end, which he controlled and sent to Redmond outside the box in the middle of the field.

The game then entered overtime, only the third time in NESCAC history that the championship has been decided in extra time. Middlebury won the first-ever NESCAC title with a four-overtime win over Williams in 2000 and the 2006 title went to Williams on penalty kick, also against Middlebury.

Williams had several chances to pad its leads over a 15-minute stretch in the middle of the second half but several key stops by Middlebury sophomore goalie Tim Cahill (S. Glastonbury, Conn.), who collected four saves on the afternoon, kept it a one-goal margin.

Middlebury advanced to the NESCAC Championship game with a 2-0 victory at top-seeded Wesleyan in a semifinal contest. The loss snapped Wesleyan's school-record 15-game unbeaten streak, as the Cardinals now stand at 11-1-4 on the season.

After a scoreless 78 minutes, Middlebury broke through with 11:04 remaining in the contest as junior defender Harrison Watkins (San Francisco, Calif.) headed a ball inside the left post for a 1-0 lead. Watkins' header followed a low corner kick by Edwards that passed otherwise untouched through the goal mouth. The goal was his team-leading fifth of the season for Watkins, who tallied four goals in his last three games. The tally was also the first given up by Wesleyan since a 3-2 victory over Western Connecticut State University on Oct. 14. The Cardinals had posted five straight shutouts since. Wesleyan freshman goalie Adam Purdy's had his string of scoreless minutes snapped at 570:40 over a seven-game span.

Middlebury pushed its lead to 2-0 three minutes later, as sophomore forward Tyler Macnee (Williston, Vt.) netted an unassisted tally with 8:07 to play. Macnee ran in all alone and sent a shot toward the left side of the goal. Purdy got a hand on the ball but was unable to deflect it out of bounds. Macnee ranks second on Middlebury with four goals and is tied with Watkins as the team's leading scorer with 10 points.

Wesleyan had a chance to take a 1-0 lead early in the first half, as senior defender Jory Kahan headed a shot towards an open net from the right side of the box. However, Middlebury senior defender Nolan Lincoln (E. Thetford, Vt.) stepped in to block the shot and keep the game scoreless.

Purdy made seven saves in the Wesleyan net, including a key save at the time in the 68th minute. Middlebury rookie forward Adam Batista (Newport, Vt.) fired a shot from the left side on a two-man rush, but Purdy leapt to his right and knocked the ball away. The rebound went to rookie Ethan Galiette (Avon, Conn.), whose shot went just wide of the mark.

Cahill needed to make only one save for his sixth shutout, as Wesleyan put just two of its eight shots on net, both of which came in the first half.
. Men's soccer final record: 10-5-2