Winning in Lewiston, Me., for the first time in team history, the Cardinals got back to their winning NESCAC ways by taking a 1-0 victory over Bates Sat., Oct. 16. Wesleyan stood 0-3-2 in five previous contests played on the Bobcats' home turf. The win also put Wesleyan slightly ahead in the all-time series with a 5-4-4 record. Next for the squad was a home match with Middlebury Tues., Oct. 19. The last time the Panthers and Cardinals did battle, it was a NESCAC tournament semi-final in Middletown won by the visitors, 2-0, ending Wesleyan's school-record 15-game unbeaten streak in 2009. This time, Middlebury broke a 1-1 tie in the second half and held on for a 2-1 victory.
At Bates, Michael McCarthy '14 played a dangerous ball over the top on the right side that Evan Hazelett '13 (#6, main photo) hustled after, intercepting an errant pass from the left back to the netminder who could only watch in dismay as Hazelett pushed it by him and tapped it into an empty net in the 10th minute. The Cards continued to play well in the first half and Cabell Maddux '13 nearly doubled the lead 13 minutes later when he met Geoff Zartarian's '11 cross with a hard shot that just went wide.
In the second half, the host turned the tables a bit on the visitors. Despite playing into a strong wind, Bates, like Wesleyan, fared better attacking into the stiff breeze. The Cardinal backfield crew of Ian Waldron '13, Eric Mandell '11, Jacob Mergendoller '11, and Harrison Lewin '12 did well to handle the pressure with good clearances and determined defending. Keeper Adam Purdy '13 (#30, photo insert lower right by Peter Stein '84) locked up his third shutout of the year and 13th career shutout, needing just one second-half save to preserve the goose egg.
Wesleyan enjoyed a 15-6 edge in total shots and a 6-2 margin in corner kicks against the Bobcats.
Against Middlebury, a team ranked fifth nationally with a 10-1 mark and only two goals allowed all season with 10 shutouts, Wesleyan found itself down early as the Panthers opened the scoring in the seventh minute and that's the way the score remained through halftime. Zach Dixon '12 evened the count with a free kick from 20 yards out in the 62nd minute, ending a scoreless streak of more than 330 minutes by Middlebury. The Panthers responded just 1:06 later with the game-winner.
Middlebury held a 16-11 edge in shots and Purdy collected five saves in the Cardinal goal while one other shot on net by the Panthers was repelled by the defense.
Facing Little Three rival Amherst in its next outing Sat., Oct. 23, Wesleyan had a chance to deny the Lord Jeffs a share of the Little Three title by downing its visitors. Amherst and Williams tied earlier this year and Williams pulled out a dramatic double-OT win against Wesleyan to begin the season.
The Cardinals got off to a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute when Rory O'Neill '13 converted a Hazelett pass into a rocket from 20 yards out for his second goal of the season. Unfortunately for Wesleyan, the lead lasted a scant 49 seconds as Amherst countered in the 65th minute, then went ahead, 2-1, in the 76th minute. Despite some smart play-making in the Amherst end, Wesleyan was unable to come up with the equalizer. One Cardinal shot by McCarthy got past the Amherst netminder on the left side but a Lord Jeff defender got to the ball before it crossed the goal line and cleared it out of harm's way with 11 minutes to play.
The Cardinals find themselves in a precarious position heading into the final regular-season contest, a home game vs. Conn. College Sat., Oct. 29. Should the Cardinals fail to dispose of the Camels, Wesleyan will miss out on the NESCAC tournament for the first time in the 11-year history of the post-season playoffs.