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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

The growing legacy of Middlebury Club Soccer

As Vermont’s bright foliage gives way to the crisp chill of winter, the Middlebury Club Soccer season has drawn to a close. With the final whistle of the season already blown, it is time to reflect on the triumphs of this past season on the turf.

Middlebury Men’s Club Soccer (MCS) finished the fall with one of their most successful seasons to date. The first team closed with a record of 7–2–2, while the second team remained unbeaten with a record of 3–0–0.

Early in the season, the MCS first-team toppled opponents from around New England, dominating Southern New Hampshire University with a 5–0 win, outscoring a strong Dartmouth College A squad 4–1 and overpowering University of Vermont (UVM) B 3–1. They faced some tough losses later in the fall to University at Albany and to Route 7 rivals, UVM-A. Nonetheless, the team’s strong record and positive goal differential awarded the team the top spot in their division and a bid to the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) Region 1 Regional Tournament in Stony Brook, N.Y. This advance marked the first regional tournament berth for the club.

Despite being the smallest school by enrollment, Middlebury stepped up against the other larger programs at the regional tournament. They faced top-ranked U.S. Naval Academy in their first game, holding them scoreless for a 0–0 tie. MCS then bested Stevens Institute of Technology with a 2–1 win before tying Tufts University 0–0 in the last group stage game. The 1–0–2 record at the tournament did not earn Middlebury a spot in the quarterfinals, but the group left Long Island proud of their accomplishments.

Back at home, the MCS second team wrapped up a strong season in its second year of development. The Panthers prevailed twice against Norwich University, winning 9–0 and 7–1, and staged a 2–1 upset against All-Black FC, a men’s league team from Burlington. 

MCS co-presidents and co-founders Blaise Siefer ’23.5 and Marco Fengler ’23.5 were proud of how far the club has come in just a few short years since its creation in the fall of 2021.

“It has been incredible to see the progress we’ve accomplished since freshman year,” Siefer said. “Going from a patchwork group playing unofficial games to becoming a top finisher in our division and a regional contender, while simultaneously becoming one of the largest clubs on campus, feels pretty good.”

This year’s team was remarkably young, with over 20 first-years on both teams. Though their experience in college play was limited, the young players made an immediate impact — along with Fengler, the MCS first team’s top four goal scorers were Rialto Janairo ’26, Deco Siefer ’27 and Jack Dunlop ’27. Despite the program graduating nearly ten seniors this year, the future of MCS is bright.

As the team turns over, its alumni base is rapidly growing, with two alumni players making the trip to Stony Brook to support the team at regionals and many contributing to the team’s mammoth $6,200 fundraising haul. 

Middlebury Women’s Club Soccer also had a successful fall, kicking off its first recognized competitive season with a growing group of players and solid regional competition. 

Led by co-presidents Tessa Husted ’25.5 and Robin Potter ’24.5, the team faced off against opponents from around New England in the NIRSA Region 1 league. The fledgling team came together for some impressive performances and made immense progress throughout the season, highlighted especially by their defeat of long-time rival and regional champion, Dartmouth.

When reflecting on the year, Husted said the team fulfilled her desire to have a fun and competitive atmosphere in college after playing sports in high school. The group of women who came together to create a committed team exceeded her expectations.

“When things got going in the fall, [Potter and I] were overjoyed to witness such enthusiasm for the club,” Husted wrote in an email to The Campus. “We even had over 50 players show up for several 6 AM practices.”

Looking forward to the spring, both the men’s and women’s teams are not allowed to hold another season due to the Student Activities Office’s regulations for Tier III programs. Both teams will continue to seek recognition as a Tier II program and advocate for the opportunity to continue to play competitively.

From their humble roots back in 2019, this season was marked by success on the pitch and program growth for both the men’s and women’s teams. With their quality play on the field and devoted camaraderie across campus, Middlebury Club Soccer will continue to make a lasting impact on the college’s club sports landscape.

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