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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Men’s soccer faces first defeat, knocked from NESCACs in semifinals

Following an undefeated season, Middlebury men’s soccer finally met its match this past weekend, falling 2–1 to a plucky Tufts University in a NESCAC semifinal matchup. The win marked a significant upset as the fourth seeded Jumbos knocked off the top-ranked Panthers on their home turf. 

Amherst College went on to capture the NESCAC title after defeating Connecticut College in the semifinals and blanking Tufts 1–0 on Sunday.

Middlebury flew through the regular season, earning a 7–0–3 record in conference play, good enough for top spot heading into the playoffs. By the time they closed out their regular season, the Panthers boasted a 11–0–4 record overall and were ranked third in Division III. 

After seeing off Williams College in the quarterfinals, Middlebury faced off against Tufts for the second time this season. In the sides’ first encounter, Middlebury had soundly beaten their opponents 3-0. The second contest proved to be a much stiffer challenge. 

The Panthers found themselves down early into the game after a miscue on a backward pass led to an own goal. With a few minutes left in the first half, captain Luke Madden ’24.5 headed in the equalizer off a free kick. Although Middlebury dominated most of the second half, a stunning strike from outside the box gave Tufts the 2-1 lead 10 minutes into the half, an advantage they held onto until the final whistle.

“We’re disappointed by the outcome but remain proud of how the team competed — we will learn from the experience and move forward together,” wrote assistant men’s soccer coach Ben Potter ’20 in an email to The Campus following the game. 

The Panthers now turn their attention to the NCAA tournament, where they will host the first two rounds for four teams. On Saturday, Nov. 11, Middlebury faces off against Western New England University at 11 a.m. The winner will compete against the winner of Babson College versus Johns Hopkins University on Sunday for a place in the Sweet Sixteen.

“We are certainly excited to be selected as a host for the opening rounds of the national tournament,” Potter wrote. “It’s a great privilege to play at home and this group will be ready for the challenge.”

The Panthers will hope that their loss to Tufts was nothing more than a blip in an otherwise strong season. If they can get back to their winning ways, a deep run in the national tournament may well still be in the cards.