HADLEY, Mass. – With the top seed in this year’s NESCAC Women’s Soccer Championship at stake, Middlebury closed out the regular season with a dramatic 3-1 triumph at Williams this afternoon. In the process, the Panthers not only ended the Ephs’ 10-game unbeaten streak but also secured home field advantage throughout the tournament for the first time since 2004. They will begin their quest for a third conference crown this Saturday, when quarterfinal round action gets underway. Along with Middlebury and Williams at home in the first round will be Bowdoin and defending champion Amherst. The highest remaining seed following Saturday’s action will host the semifinals and final from November 3-4.
Middlebury, Williams and Amherst finished regular season with identical 8-1-1 records. The Panthers were awarded the top seed by virtue of their four points in head-to-head competition between the three teams. Williams came away with the second seed as a result of its 3-2 victory over the Lord Jeffs on September 6.
Middlebury (12-1-1, 8-1-1 NESCAC) will be looking for its first NESCAC title since 2006, when it slipped past Amherst 1-0 in overtime. The Panthers have been dominant on the defensive side of the ball, allowing just five goals all season. They will open up tournament play against eighth seeded Wesleyan (6-7-1, 3-7-0 NESCAC) on Saturday. The Cardinals kept their postseason hopes alive with a 2-0 win at Trinity yesterday. The win ultimately moved them into the tournament after they finished in a three-way tie for seventh place with the Bantams and Connecticut College. Middlebury came out on top 2-1 when the teams met on September 29. Wesleyan’s goal was the first that the Panthers had surrendered all season.
Williams (10-3-1, 8-1-1 NESCAC) will look to rebound from its first loss in over a month when it takes the field on Saturday. The Ephs have piled up a league-best six NESCAC titles, including four straight from 2007-10. They will host seventh seeded Connecticut College (5-7-2, 3-7-0 NESCAC), which handed Middlebury its only loss of the year (1-0) on October 7. The Camels gave Williams all it could handle during their regular season matchup on September 23 before falling 1-0. They will be making their first postseason appearance since 2007 and fourth overall.
After earning the top seed a year ago, Amherst (12-1-1, 8-1-1 NESCAC) enters this year’s championship as the third seed. The Lord Jeffs will begin their title defense against Colby (8-6-0, 4-6-0 NESCAC). The Mules rebounded from three straight conference losses and locked up the sixth seed with a 2-0 win over Bates today. The Mules advanced to the semifinals in both 2005 and 2006. They fell 4-0 at Amherst on October 13. In addition to their championship last fall, the Lord Jeffs also came out on top in 2001 and 2003.
The remaining quarterfinal round matchup pits fourth seeded Bowdoin (10-3-1, 6-3-1 NESCAC) and fifth seeded Hamilton (9-4-1, 5-4-1 NESCAC). Bowdoin clinched home field advantage with a 2-1 triumph over Trinity on Saturday. Heading into the final week of the regular season, Hamilton had the opportunity to pass the Polar Bears in the standings but came up short against an upset-minded Tufts squad on Saturday. Bowdoin closed out its regular season with a 1-1 draw at Tufts yesterday, putting an end to the Jumbos’ postseason hopes. The Polar Bears edged the Continentals 1-0 on October 13. They will be hosting for the first time since 2007.
Results for the NESCAC Women’s Soccer Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.