Middlebury

Men's Soccer Heads To Wesleyan For NESCAC Quarterfinals - Match Moved To 11:00 a.m.

October 28, 2011

The top seed in the 2011 NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship came down to the final day of the regular season, and when the dust settled on a wild Wednesday afternoon Amherst had out-maneuvered Wesleyan for the number-one spot and home field advantage throughout the tournament. The Lord Jeffs and the Cardinals will have home games in the quarterfinals, which take place this Saturday, Oct. 29, and they will be joined by Trinity and Williams. The highest remaining seed following Saturday's action will host the semifinals and final on Nov. 5-6.

Amherst (11-1-2, 7-1-2 NESCAC) and Wesleyan (10-1-3, 7-1-2 NESCAC) were neck-and-neck in the NESCAC standings heading into the final weeks of the season. The two met this past Saturday at Amherst with the winner of the match guaranteed the number-one seed in this year's championship. The two clubs played to a scoreless draw, though, which meant that it would come down to Wednesday to decide who would get the top spot. All the Cardinals needed to do was beat Trinity, as a victory over the Bantams would give Wesleyan the tie-breaking advantage regardless of what the Lord Jeffs did. Trinity proved to be an unwelcome guest as the Bantams crashed the party with two early goals to defeat Wesleyan 2-0, the Cardinals' first loss of the year. Amherst, meanwhile, could not get past a pesky Connecticut College squad and fell by a 3-2 score for their first setback of the fall. Tied with 23 points apiece atop the league standings, Amherst earned the number-one seed via a better record against the top four teams in the conference - 1-0-2 versus 1-1-1 for Wesleyan.

The Lord Jeffs grabbed the number-one seed for only the second time in championship history (2007) and will face eighth-seeded Colby (7-6-1, 3-6-1 NESCAC) in the quarterfinals. Only a win could put the Mules in the men's soccer tournament for the third year in a row, as they trailed Hamilton in the standings by two points entering Wednesday. Scoreless at the half with Maine rival Bates, Colby scored two goals less than a minute apart and then held off the Bobcats for a 3-2 victory. Making only the third appearance in the 11-year history of the tournament, the Mules will meet the Lord Jeffs in the first round for the second-straight year after Amherst dealt Colby a 3-0 decision in 2010. The two squads faced each other just two weeks ago in Waterville with Amherst earning a 3-0 win.

The Cardinals will have their work cut out for them when they host seventh-seeded and defending NESCAC champion Middlebury (7-3-4, 3-3-4 NESCAC). The Panthers have reached the final of the conference championship in each of the last five years, claiming the 2010 crown in penalty kicks over top-seeded Bowdoin for their third NESCAC championship (2000, 2007). During the lone regular season game between Wesleyan and Middlebury on Oct. 1, neither team found the back of the net as the match ended in a scoreless draw. While the Cardinals suffered a 2-0 loss in the season finale, the Panthers played to a 0-0 tie with Williams, as they have now allowed only one goal over their last nine matches (6-1-2). Middlebury holds a 2-0 record over Wesleyan in all-time tournament play, most recently upending the top-seeded Cardinals in the 2009 semifinals.

Trinity's big win over Wesleyan guaranteed the Bantams (8-4-2, 6-2-2 NESCAC) a home game in the championship. After missing the tournament entirely in 2010, Trinity matched its best finish ever in the NESCAC standings in 2011 with third place overall. The Bantams will battle fellow Nutmeg State resident Connecticut College (9-4-1, 5-4-1 NESCAC) in what will be the first meeting for the two in tournament history. The sixth-seeded Camels secured their spot in the league standings with a hard-fought 3-2 victory at Amherst on Wednesday afternoon, their third win in four outings. Like Trinity, Connecticut College qualified for the NESCAC championship a year after being left out of the field, and another similarity between the two is the Camels posting their best finish in the conference standings. It will be interesting to see which team advances to the semifinals out of Saturday's showdown. The Bantams have only reached the semis once in five tries, their lone appearance coming in 2008. The Camels are winless in three previous attempts. Trinity won the regular season match on Sept. 24 in New London 2-0, the third consecutive win for the Bantams over the Camels.

The final first round contest features a first-time championship meeting between fourth-seeded Williams (8-3-3, 5-2-3 NESCAC) and fifth-seeded Tufts (9-3-2, 5-3-2 NESCAC). The Ephs and the Jumbos saw each other less than two weeks ago in Medford with Tufts claiming only its second victory over Williams since 1995 by a 2-1 score. The two teams were tied with Trinity following the Oct. 15 weekend for third in the standings, however only two teams would be able to host a home quarterfinal game. The Ephs earned a win and a tie in their final two outings, having not allowed a goal since their loss at Tufts, to beat out the Jumbos by one point for the final home quarterfinal match. With six NESCAC crowns to their credit, more than any other program, the Ephs will be hungry to return to the semifinals after missing out a year ago for the first time in tournament history. Tufts, on the other hand, has only moved out of the first round once, as the Jumbos advanced via penalty kicks in 2001.

2011 NESCAC MEN'S SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP
Quarterfinals - Saturday, October 29 at Higher Seeds
No. 8 Colby at No. 1 Amherst - 2:30 p.m.
No. 7 Middlebury at No. 2 Wesleyan - 11:00 a.m.
No. 6 Connecticut College at No. 3 Trinity - 12:30 p.m.
No. 5 Tufts at No. 4 Williams - 1:30 p.m.

Semifinals - Saturday, November 5
at Highest Remaining Seed
11:00 a.m./1:30 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, November 6
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.

--courtesy NESCAC--