On Sunday, the men’s soccer team joined the men’s golf team, women’s cross country running team, men’s cross country running team, and women’s volleyball team as NESCAC Champions.
The men started the season off flawlessly, making it through seven games without having a goal scored on them. After stumbling into a 2-1 loss at Colby, they regained momentum, shutting out another four consecutive teams. Honestly, their season up to that point was simply preposterous. To allow only two goals into their net over the course of twelve games is the sort of feat that no team really could expect to ask of themselves. The team’s defense wasn’t allowing any goals to be scored, and the offense was putting enough goals into the opposing nets to earn victories; the season was going by more smoothly than anyone could have thought.
Then, they suffered not one, but two consecutive losses. The team that seemed unstoppable was slipping up right when the playoff season was beginning. Senior Taylor Wilkins attributes these losses to the fact that “the team might have begun to think too broadly about its success and looking ahead to playoffs. We forgot to concentrate on each game by itself.” Although devastating, these losses weren’t looked at as a moment of weakness, but an opportunity for improvement. As Wilkins stated, “The two losses served as a perfect wake-up call.” And wake up they did. The team reassessed their offense, brushed off any lingering sense of over-confidence, and bounced back to win games against Amherst and Williams. Finally, landing in the NESCAC championship game against Bowdoin last Sunday, the team pulled together a stunning victory.
After regulation time had run out, the teams were tied at 0-0. After two sudden death over time sessions, the score remained 0-0. That left penalty kicks. After four shots from each team, the score was tied at 3-3. Middlebury’s last shooter was sophomore Jon Portman. Refusing to flinch under the pressure, he stepped up and powered a shot past the Bowdoin goalie. Bowdoin’s final player was unable to respond, resulting in a Panther victory.
The team is elated with the victory, but is keeping the situation in perspective. Wilkins believes that “The team definitely has the skill, talent, and work ethic to get to the final four in San Antonio, but there is a lot of work to be done before then.” Operating under the mentality of “one game at a time,” the Panthers hope to work their way through the bracket and find themselves competing amongst the best teams in the nation. Their first round match up is this Saturday against Daniel Webster. They’re playing at home at 11:00, so get out there and cheer!