Women’s Soccer Loses in NESCAC Semis to Middlebury on Penalties

On Saturday, after two days of rain in Williamstown, Massachuesetts the site of the 2018 NESCAC women’s soccer tournament, a mid-afternoon start on a grass field turned to a 5 p.m. start time under the lights on the Farley-Lamb turf field for the semifinal match for the women’s soccer team and Middlebury. From the opening to the final whistle, the two teams battled temperatures in the low 40s and gusts of wind over 20 miles per hour. Through regulation and overtime the two teams remained deadlocked with one goal apiece. Middlebury eventually prevailed in the following sudden death penalty shootout.

The early stages of the semifinal contest were defined by strong midfield play from both teams. Midfielder Natalie Landau ’21 had two shots blocked by Panther defenders and Maeve McNamara ’19 kept up the pressure on the Middlebury backline, putting in a cross that found the foot of first-year striker Alexa Juarez, who put the shot just wide.

Amherst’s pressure finally paid off in the 34th minute, when Rubii Tamen ’19 scored an impressive unassisted effort. Receiving the ball a few yards outside the 18-yard box, Tamen turned to beat her defender and quickly fired off a shot into the upper left corner of the goal, leaving the Panthers’ keeper with no chance for a save.

The Mammoths’ defense, anchored by goalkeeper Antonia Tammaro ’21, thwarted several Middlebury attacks over the next 10 minutes to secure a one-goal lead entering halftime.

Both teams picked up where they left off to start the second, with Tamen and Juarez each produced dangerous scoring opportunities for Amherst, while Middlebury pressed for the game-tying goal.

In the 62nd minute, Middlebury finally found the equalizer with a spectacular long-distance shot from striker Olivia Miller, who entered the match as Middlebury’s leading scorer. Miller’s shot from roughly 33 yards out arced over Tammaro’s hands and into the top left corner.

The final 28 minutes of regulation remained scoreless, but not for the two teams’ lack of trying. Indeed, Amherst nearly conceded in the final minutes of the game when a Panther attacker rippeda shot just wide of a completely open goal.

The two periods of overtime, however, were more cagey affairs, as both teams seemed content to play for penalties and neither side managed to score.

The penalty shootout began inauspiciously for both sides, as the first kicker for Middlebury and Amherst both skied attempt over the frame of the goal. The Mammoths netted their next two attempts while the Panthers went scoreless, leaving Amherst in a comfortable 2-0 lead through the first three attempts, meaning the only way Middlebury could stay alive was if Amherst missed its last two kicks and Middlebury scored both.

However, this unlikely scenario occurred, with the Mammoths choking away the lead and the match progressing to sudden death penalties. Although both teams were successful in their sixth-round attempts, Amherst missed in the seventh round and the Panthers’ Sara DiCenso slotted home the match-winning penalty.

Despite the loss, the Mammoths’ season is not over. On Monday, Amherst found out that it had not only received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament but also had earned hosting rights for the first weekend of games. Therefore, the Mammoths will take on Lesley University at Hitchcock Field this Saturday, Nov. 10 with the time still undecided. If Amherst manages to beat Lesley, the team will face either Vassar College or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a spot in the Sweet Sixteen on the line.