Middlebury Edges Williams in Shoot-out; Amherst Completes Comeback Win Over Bowdoin in NESCAC Semifinals
The day’s first match between the Ephs and Panthers proved to be the match of the tournament thus far, as the game provided a little bit of excitement for all types of fans. The first half was an impressive defensive battle, which saw Middlebury hold a 7-0 edge in shots but come up scoreless at the break.
Despite being out-shot by a lopsided margin in the first frame, Williams jumped out of the gate firing on all cylinders in the second stanza. Williams put heavy pressure on the Panther defense, and broke through in the 55th minute on a cross from the right wing. With a pair of Eph strikers breathing down his neck, Middlebury’s Colin Nangle (Westport, CT) couldn’t avoid clearing the ball into his own net, as Williams took a 1-0 lead.
Middlebury refused to go away and found the equalizer in the 67th minute when substitute Andrew Banadda (Gaithersburg, MD) slotted a through pass with the outside of his foot into space for sophomore forward Stephan Hart (Park City, UT) to run on to. In a foot race against Eph keeper Andrew Graham, Hart arrived first and calmly flicked the ball on frame. A pair of Williams defenders couldn’t catch up with the slow roller before it crossed the line and knotted the game up at 1-1.
From that point on, the defenses took over and the game was destined for extra time. Despite playing two overtimes, neither side found the net again until penalty kicks.
Middlebury junior forward Casey Ftorek (Bedford, MA) set the tone for the shootout with the first shot converted to the upper-left corner. Williams senior defender Nathan Elwood (Andover, NJ) rang the Ephs’ first shot off the crossbar.
Middlebury followed suit with a pair of scores in the second and third rounds of penalties, while their junior goalkeeper, Brian Bush (Madison, WI), stopped consecutive shots from Williams to seal the win.
The day’s second match had a lot to live up to after the first semifinal, but both sides seemed up for the task. The crowd swelled for host Amherst’s match, as people flowed down the hill to Gooding Field from the Family Weekend football game.
In the only meeting of the season between the two sides, Amherst handed Bowdoin a 3-0 defeat on this same field, and the Polar Bears clearly wanted to turn the tides against the Jeffs in the tournament.
The two sides played step-for-step throughout the first frame, with Bowdoin senior Nick Figueiredo (Wilmington, MA) breaking through in the 35th minute. Teammate Tim Prior (Georgetown, MA) swung a low cross in to Figueiredo for a near post run, where the striker cleanly tucked the ball past Amherst goalie Jeff Grover (Framingham, MA). The score was Figueiredo’s 10th goal of the year, which broke the Bowdoin all-time point record of 88.
Amherst, a team that had lost just a single game all season long, remained composed and confident heading back onto the pitch after halftime trailing just 1-0. For an offense that had averaged nearly three goals per game all season, it seemed only a matter of time before the Jeffs offense would strike.
That moment came in the 57th minute from junior Nick Lynch (Kingston, Jamaica). Senior Kevin Dolan (Peabody, MA) set up Lynch with a nifty ball after a step-over crossed up a Bowdoin back. Lynch drove a hard shot to the lower corner for the equalizer.
Amherst kept its high-pressure game plan over the next quarter-hour, and found the game-winner in the 69th minute from an unlikely hero. First-year substitute Ian Rothkopf (Harvard, MA) scored the goal off a cross from Lynch on a free kick. The 6’3” striker rose above the crowd to hammer home a header for his fourth collegiate goal, and second game-winner of the season.
The Jeffs advanced to tomorrow’s NESCAC Championship match against Middlebury, in a rematch of the season’s most anticipated regular season game. On Oct. 6, Amherst defeated Middlebury 3-1 at home when the sides were ranked third and 10th nationally. Kickoff is set for noon tomorrow at Gooding Field.