November 22, 2010

The Panther men’s soccer team saw its season come to an end with a 2-1 overtime loss at Bowdoin in the NCAA Quarterfinal round. Middlebury was making its third trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals in the last four years and finish the season with a 16-4-1 mark, the second-most wins in school history.

            Bowdoin's Zach Danssaert scored the game-winning goal with one second remaining in overtime to lift the Polar Bears to the victory. The Polar Bears (15-1-4) earn their school-record 15th win of the season and will face the winner of Lynchburg and Ohio Wesleyan on Friday, December 3, for a berth in the national title match.

            After a scoreless first half that saw neither team garner any top-notch chances, the game opened up with a flurry of action early in the second stanza. Just two minutes into the stanza, Middlebury sophomore Rob Cole (S. Burlington, Vt.) controlled the ball on the right wing and delivered a centering pass to sophomore Brett Brazier (Okemos, Mich.). Brazier shrugged off a defender at the top of the box and left-footed a shot inside the right post, just beyond the reach of goaltender Dan Hicks, to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

            Bowdoin increased their offensive pressure following the goal, with their best chance coming with 32 minutes to go when Sean Bishop's header deflected off the post to Eddie Jones, who rifled a shot high off the crossbar. Middlebury junior netminder Tim Cahill (S. Glastonbury, Conn.) stymied the Polar Bears on several occasions, including consecutive outstanding saves inside the box off the foot of Bowdoin senior Ben Denton-Schneider with under 10 minutes to play.

            The Polar Bears were finally able to break through against Cahill, who had shut out Bowdoin for 281:46 minutes this season, in the 82nd minute. After a long possession in the Middlebury end, Jones collected a loose ball on the left side of the box and right-footed a shot that tucked inside the right post to tie the score with just 8:14 remaining. The game remained deadlocked and headed into extra time.

            The game appeared destined for a second overtime until Bowdoin earned a free kick just outside the box with under 15 seconds remaining in the first extra session. The set piece was quickly played into the box to Nick Powell, whose header bounced off the post to the waiting foot of Zach Danssaert, who booted the rebound into the top right corner just before the horn sounded.

            Hicks made seven saves in goal for Bowdoin while Cahill stopped five shots, all of which came after halftime. The Polar Bears held a 16-13 edge in shots and a 9-6 advantage in corners.

The NCAA semifinal appearance will be the first for the Polar Bears, who had not won an NCAA Tournament game prior to this fall.

            Middlebury advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals after a 1-0 win over Babson at Bowdoin. Both teams had numerous scoring chances in an evenly-played first half, beginning when Babson’s Josh Danesh sent a cross from the left side that was intercepted by Cahill just before it reached streaking junior Billy Nickerson in the 11th minute.

            The Beavers had another strong chance when Jimmy Stento beat a defender on the right wing and sent a cross through the box in the 25th minute, but the ball sailed just over the head of Eric Anderson in front and Max Walker’s follow-up bid from the left side sailed well over the net.

            Middlebury nearly broke through at 34:25, when sophomore Jon Portman (Fair Haven, N.J.) found space at the top of the box and ripped a shot toward the left corner. However, the ball ricocheted off the left post and back through the box before it was cleared away by the Babson defense.

            Portman had another great opportunity in the closing minutes of the first, but his shot from the left side was stopped by Crowley and the rebound was cleared off the goal line by Salvatore Percival. The Panthers would have a pair of corner kicks in the final 30 seconds of the period, but the Beavers successfully denied both as the two teams entered halftime tied at 0-0.

            The second half once again saw both teams enjoy excellent scoring chances, with Babson’s Walker missing just above the cross bar off a failed clear at 60:48 and Middlebury senior Taylor Wilkins (S. Burlington, Vt.) doing the same with a header off a corner kick at the 68-minute mark. Crowley then made a spectacular diving save to his left on a rocket off the foot of Panther junior Tyler Macnee (Williston, Vt.) at 73:40, as the contest remained scoreless.

            Middlebury finally snapped the deadlock with just under 11 minutes remaining in regulation, beginning when Macnee intercepted a Babson pass near midfield. The junior striker then slid a perfect through-ball to a streaking junior Otis Pitney (Washington, D.C.), who broke in alone on Crowley and tucked a shot into the lower right corner for the game’s first goal at 79:03. It was Pitney’s sixth goal of the season, while the assist was Macnee’s third.

            Babson threatened to tie the game when Ryan Obolewicz got a lunging foot on a lead pass from Stento near the right post with six minutes remaining, but Cahill made an easy save. The Beavers then had one final attempt with a free kick from midfield with 30 seconds remaining, but the Panthers’ keeper made a clean catch on the ensuing service to clinch the 1-0 Middlebury victory.

            Middlebury controlled a majority of play, owning a 17-5 advantage in shots on the day. Cahill finished with one save in goal, while Crowley made six stops for the Beavers.
• Men’s soccer final record: 16-4-1