Women's Soccer Wins NESCAC Title

November 5, 2006

The Middlebury women's soccer team won its second NESCAC Championship as they picked up a 1-0 overtime win at Amherst on Sunday. The Panthers (13-2-1) receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will find out their fate when the selections are announced late Sunday or Monday morning. Amherst falls to 12-2-1 and will hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney.

Both offenses came out of the gate strong, as Amherst and Middlebury each had a corner kick attempt in the opening five minutes of the game. The Lord Jeffs managed to get a shot on their first corner attempt, but a one-timer by Meg Murphy was saved by Panther goalkeeper Adele Plunkett. The teams were very evenly matched in the first 15 minutes of the game, with both teams setting up good opportunities and attacks, only to be shut down by the aggressive defenses.

The first major threat came with 28 minutes remaining in the half, when an Erin Oliver corner kick ended up on the feet of Abby Kurtz-Phelan, whose shot from 20 yards out rattled the crossbar, forcing Amherst keeper Piper Crowell to punch the ball out of bounds. Middlebury would have two more consecutive corner kicks, but the Lord Jeff defense would eventually clear the ball out of Amherst territory and escape unharmed.

Middlebury held a slight edge over Amherst for a majority of the first half, keeping the ball in Lord Jeff territory but failing to put together any serious attacks. With 14 minutes remaining in the half, Amherst took back the momentum and attacked the Panthers' zone. With 10:30 remaining, Heather Nowak sent a free kick form the corner to the feet of Natalie Ferraiolo, who one-timed the ball over the goal, ending the Amherst rush.

Middlebury would threaten once more before the end of the half, as first-year Nora Tomlinson Weintraub chipped a shot over Crowell to the far post, but the ball sailed just over the goal with 4:15 remaining in the half. Neither team would threaten again, as the championship game remained scoreless entering halftime.

The second half started just as the first half had gone, with the teams battling back-and-forth without being able to capitalize on any opportunities. The first major attack came 17 minutes into the half, when Lesley Pruzansky dribbled to the corner and crossed to Amy Armstrong, whose shot looked as though it would get past Plunkett, but the Panthers' defense formed a wall on the goal line to save the shot and clear the ball out of their zone.

Middlebury quickly recovered and countered, putting serious pressure on the Lord Jeffs for seven solid minutes. With 17 minutes remaining in the half, Kim Walker received a cross from senior Laura Kwoh, but her shot was ripped high and wide of the goal. The Panthers would threaten again five minutes later when a loose ball bounced inside the Amherst 18-yard line, but Crowell charged out to grab the loose ball.

The Panthers had a great chance with 11 minutes remaining in the second half when Tomlinson Weintraub ripped a hard shot on target, but Crowell knocked the ball back out to the middle, allowing the defense to once again escape a very good Middlebury attack. The Middlebury offense was relentless for the remainder of the half, however, setting up several scoring opportunities deep in Amherst territory. With six minutes remaining in the half, Crowell turned away a Panther corner kick, but Weintraub settled the loose ball and ripped another hard shot from eight yards out that sailed just wide of the goal. Just one minute later, Caitrin Abshere had her shot sail just high, followed shortly by another Tomlinson Weintraub hard shot, but Crowell picked up another save. Middlebury's final attack in the second half came with three minutes remaining when Abshere's shot sailed high, ending a long stretch of Middlebury domination.

With 25 seconds remaining in regulation, Amherst had one final scoring opportunity when Kathy Nolan 's corner kick hit the head of sophomore Mary Marvell, but the ball sailed over the goal, sending the teams into overtime after 90 hard-fought minutes of scoreless soccer.

The first two-and-a-half minutes of overtime were packed with scoring opportunities for both teams, with Tomlinson Weintraub coming the closest to scoring when she ripped yet another hard, low shot past Crowell, but the ball sailed just wide of the goal. With less than three minutes remaining in the first sudden death period, Weintraub crossed the ball from the corner to Oliver, whose shot went low and to the corner, freezing Crowell on her line. The ball hit the back of the net as the Panthers claimed the 2006 NESCAC Championship.

Both goalkeepers were challenged throughout the game, with Crowell and Plunkett each recording four saves. The shutout was the ninth of the season for Plunkett.

--courtesy Amherst--