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Monday, Dec 5, 2022

Women's Soccer Edges Trinity for Big Tournament Win

Author: David Lindholm Assistant Sports Editor

Meg Bonney '03 scored twice in a New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament game on Sunday to give the Panthers both a shot in the next round and a sense of déjà vu. On Saturday, the Panthers and the Triniy Bantams met in Hartford for both teams' last game of the regular season and Middlebury came away 2-1 victors. Later that day, both teams discovered that they would face each other the next day in the first round of the NESCAC tournament.

On Saturday, the Panthers were looking for a win, but also having already qualified for the postseason, were not looking to spend all their energy. Coach Diane Boettcher played 21 players in the game, and all of the seniors got plenty of time. Trinity, on the other hand, knew that they needed a win to control their own destiny in terms of making the tournament. The Bantams were playing for their lives in front of their own fans on Homecoming, which resulted in a hotly contested game.

After a scoreless first half, Middlebury broke the deadlock in the second, courtesy a goal from Leah Cumsky-Whitlock '03, NESCAC's leading scorer. Her goal caused the Bantams to work even harder, and eventually Trinity pulled level and forced the game into overtime. The battle continued with Middlebury getting the better of the chances, until the Panthers finally put the game away seven minutes into overtime.

The game-winning golden goal came from Anna Gayman '03, who found the ball in the middle of a scrum in the Trinity box. A corner was played in, bounced off a couple players, and then, as Boettcher described it, "Anna used a 'World Cup' effort to put it in the back of the net."

The goal won the game for Middlebury and sealed their number two slot in the tournament behind only Williams. Trinity, physically exhausted and demoralized, soon found out that despite the loss, thanks to other NESCAC results, they would be heading to the tournament.

Middlebury did not find out until later. "We didn't want to know who we were going to play," said Boettcher. "We just figured that we would show up at the field, ready to play, facing either Tufts, Bowdoin or Colby." It wasn't until a parent called Boettcher letting her know of a change in game time that the team found out that they would face Trinity again.

The Panthers benefited from the fact that Trinity had exerted themselves so much on Saturday. Sunday's game was just as intense, but Bonney scored an early goal that set the tone for the match. Britt Kittlesen '03 blasted a shot off the crossbar that cannoned right to the feet of Bonney, who calmly finished for the 1-0 lead in the 15th minute.

Trinity had a golden opportunity to equalize 12 minutes later, but a missed penalty doomed the Bantams, who couldn't finish opportunities in both games. "They missed plenty of chances," said Boettcher. Bonney gave the Panthers the ever-important second goal with eight minutes left in the first half.

The Bantams fought hard for the second half, but Middlebury weathered the onslaught, allowing a goal in the 72nd minute but otherwise stifling the Trinity offense. "Our midfielders made the difference on Sunday," Boettcher noted. "They were still running after the end of the second game, after 105 minutes on Saturday and a full game on Sunday"

The Panthers now look to Amherst as the next challenge, as they meet in the semifinals of the NESCAC tourney. Middlebury holds the historical advantage over Amherst, as they haven't lost in four years and perenially do well in tournament games over the Jeffs. The winner will have to face either Bowdoin or top-ranked, undefeated, and host Williams for the NESCAC championship.





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