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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

Men's Soccer Whips Trinity, Preps for Tourney

Author: David Lindholm Assistant Sports Editor

The Middlebury men's soccer team continued to struggle with non-conference teams but also continued their run of good form within the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) this week. On Thursday the men traveled to St. Michael's to meet up with the Purple Knights, followed by a trip on Saturday to Hartford, Conn., for a battle with Trinity.

St. Michael's came into the game with four wins and 10 losses in Division II, and the Panthers knew it was a game that they could win. Middlebury dominated from the beginning and played a solid first half except for one defensive error. A cross was played from the wing and the Panther defense couldn't clear it, which left a Knight attacker alone to finish the ball into the upper corner.

That goal gave St. Mike's all the offense they would need, as the defense continued to stymie the Panther attack. Middlebury piled on shot after shot in the second half, but couldn't find the deadly touch and put one in the back of the net. The game ended 1-0, which continued Middlebury's non-league woes; the loss was their fourth in five games outside of the NESCAC.

"They only had a couple shots in the game," said senior goalkeeper Brian Hamm. "We dominated the game but couldn't score. That's soccer; the best team doesn't always win."

The Trinity match, though, proved to be the complete opposite of Thursday's game, as the Panthers were in full control the whole 90 minutes as they cruised to a 5-0 victory. "Saturday could've been 8-0," said Hamm. "Everything came together on Saturday; we played exactly the way we've wanted to all season. We had played like that in part of other games, but never for the whole time. It was a great game."

Middlebury was able to take the lead early, thanks to goals from the heads of Pat Saunders '04 and Nelson Martelle '02. Both scores came from crosses, and the Panthers would continue to use their momentum in the second half. Andy Peters '03 had a goal, and Kyle Dezotell '03 finished off the scoring with his first two goals of the season.

The goals broke Dezotell's scoring drought, which is good news for a Panther team that has searched for goals all season. Much had been made of the injury to Brian Lavin '02, but the strike force of Dezotell and John Rusten '05 has developed; the two players have learned to play up front together.

"Those goals were great for Dezie," said Hamm. "Once you get that first one they just keep coming."

Middlebury will need goals as they head into their toughest game of the season when undefeated and top-ranked Williams come to visit. That game will have playoff implications, as the Panthers are hoping to hold on to their number two seed for the NESCAC tournament.

Williams holds a NESCAC record of 8-0-0 and an overall record of 12-0-0. They are ranked first in the nation and feature star forward Alex Blake, who has 22 goals and nine assists and was recently featured in USA Today. However, Middlebury has a history of knocking off the Ephs, and Saturday's game at noon is sure to be a heated, intense battle. The Panthers will stay on home turf for their first playoff game which will be held the next day.