Men’s soccer falls to Midd. in 3rd round of nationals

For the second year in a row, men’s soccer had its NCAA run cut short by the eventual national champion. This year, eventual NCAA champion Middlebury (18-2-2) dropped the men from the tournament’s ranks in the third round with a 3-0 victory over Williams (12-5-2). It marked the Ephs’ third loss to the Panthers this season.

Prior to the Middlebury game, Williams progressed through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament by defeating Eastern Connecticut, 2-0, and Keene State, 2-1.

This third meeting between the two NESCAC conference teams began and ended with the Panthers in control. Middlebury’s combination of tight defense and relentless offense prevented Williams from having opportunities on goal.

After 28 minutes, the Panthers penetrated the Ephs’ defense successfully to notch their first goal. Forward Casey Ftorek met a pass from teammate Baer Fischer and shot it into the far side of the net, past keeper Andrew Graham ’10, to put the Panthers up 1-0. Middlebury took advantage of this lead and Ftorek struck again, this time assisting with a pass to forward Steven Hart just ten minutes after his initial goal. Hart’s low rocket came to rest in the corner of the net. At the end of the first half, Middlebury had seven shots on goal to Williams’ two.

Although the Ephs did not seem ready to concede with the opening of the second half, the Panthers were prepared to protect their lead. Middlebury was afforded an opportunity to do just that six minutes in, when Eph keeper Graham fed a poorly-aimed clearing ball to Middlebury forward David LaRocca. LaRocca took advantage of the open net to add another goal for the Panthers.

Although the Ephs mounted several surges into Panther territory late in the game, they failed to convert opportunities into points. They lost a heart-breaking opportunity in the 75th minute, when Sam Empson ’09 shot a long, arching ball that hit goal-post rather than the net. After this near miss, Middlebury retained its lead with tight defense, and the game ended in a 3-0 loss for Williams.

Keeper Graham finished with two saves to Panther keeper Brian Bush’s one, and the Panthers out-shot the Ephs 15-9.

After their third round NCAA shut-out over Williams, Middlebury advanced to defeat York 2-0 the following day. With subsequent victories over Loras and Trinity (Texas) – the latter in penalty kicks – Middlebury took the Div. III title.

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