November 8, 2010

The Middlebury College men's soccer team won its third NESCAC Championship with a thrilling shootout decision over Bowdoin after a scoreless tie on Sunday afternoon. The Panthers (13-3-1) claimed the shootout win by a 4-3 score and earn the NESCAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Bowdoin (13-1-3) will likely receive an at-large bid when selections are announced on Monday.

After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, Bowdoin quickly gained the upper hand in penalty kicks when Middlebury's first shooter, senior Harrison Watkins (San Francisco, Calif.), hooked his kick wide left. The teams proceeded to trade goals until Panther goalkeeper Tim Cahill (S. Glastonbury, Conn.) smothered Zach Danssaert's chance in the fourth round, knotting PK's at three apiece. In the fifth and final round, sophomore Jon Portman (Fair Haven, N.J.) tucked a chance inside the left post and Bowdoin's Alex Marecki's kick sailed wide left to give Middlebury the 4-3 penalty kick win.

The exciting finish capped an excellent match that featured nearly flawless play by both sides through regulation and two extra sessions. Middlebury's best chance to win the contest in regular time came off a corner in the 66th minute, when senior Jake Edwards (Easton, Conn.) lofted a kick into the box where a scramble ensued, drawing Bowdoin netminder Dan Hicks out of position. The ball came to Middlebury junior Tyler Macnee (Williston, Vt.), who booted a shot that got past Hicks, but was kicked off the goal line by Tim Prior to keep the game deadlocked.

            Bowdoin countered with perhaps their two best chances of the game, one off a through-ball pass from Eddie Jones that Cahill stole off the foot of Nick Powell. With under seven minutes remaining, Jones came loose on the left side of the box and ripped a shot that whistled over the crossbar.

            The best opportunity for either side in overtime came for Bowdoin, when Daniel Chaffetz placed a 30-yard cross into the box from the right side, setting up a diving header by Jones. But Cahill was right there to collect the save and maintain the shutout.

            Cahill finished with three saves in the contest while Hicks ended with four stops. Bowdoin held an 11-9 edge in shots while Middlebury racked up an 8-3 advantage in corner kicks. The NESCAC Championship win is the third for the Panthers, who had also won in 2007 and 2000, but had lost in the finals in each of the past two seasons. Bowdoin is now 0-2 in NESCAC finals with the loss.

            Middlebury advanced to its fifth-straight NESCAC Championship game with a 2-0 win over Amherst in a conference semifinal played at Bowdoin College on Saturday afternoon.

            The Panthers used a goal in each half to put away the Jeffs. After a scoreless opening half-hour, Edwards fed Macnee with a free kick. Macnee gathered the ball in the box, turned and blasted a shot that ricocheted off an Amherst defender and spun into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead at 33:20. The goal briefly gave Macnee the team-lead with five on the season. Middlebury doubled its lead in the second half when a nifty cross from sophomore Rob Cole (S. Burlington, Vt.) found streaking junior Otis Pitney (Washington, D.C.) for a header at 63:10. Pitney's fifth marker of the year tied him with Macnee.

            That proved to be all Cahill would need, as the he stopped five shots in the victory. Amherst's Lennard Kovacs made a pair of saves in the loss for the Jeffs, who saw their six-game win streak stopped. Amherst's only two losses this season have come at the hands of Middlebury.
• Men's soccer record: 13-3-1
• Up next: 11/13 vs. Daniel Webster - 11:00 (NCAA Regional, game two @ 1:30) - 11/14 - Regional Final - 1:00