Seventh-seeded Middlebury rallied from an early 1-0 deficit with two quick goals and held on for a wild 3-2 victory over second-seeded Wesleyan in the quarterfinal round of the 2011 NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship Sat., Oct. 29 in Middletown. Middlebury now stands 8-3-4 on the season and played Amherst in semifinal action Saturday, Nov. 5 at Amherst. Williams and Trinity met in the other semi-final. Semi-final winners were Amherst and Trinity with Amherst claiming the NESCAC crown, 2-0. Wesleyan, which entered the game ranked ninth nationally, suffered its second consecutive loss after starting the season 10-0-3. Wesleyan received its fourth bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament in the last seven seasons with an at-large berth. The Cardinals will travel to Rutgers-Camden for a four-team regional Sat.-Sun., Nov. 12-13. Wesleyan's opening foe will be Misericordia (13-2-4) from Dallas, Pa., winners of the Freedom Conference, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Rutgers-Camden takes on the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in the other regional matchup. Winners play on Sunday. For the complete NCAA interactive tournament bracket, please click here. For the PDF version, click here.
There will be no webcast or live statistics for Saturday's NCAA contest, but fans can get live updates via the athletics Twitter feed, @wescores.
Against Middlebury, Wesleyan had taken a 1-0 lead before the game was 10 minutes old. Zach Dixon '12 (#5, photo by Peter Stein '84) took a pass about 30 yards out and launched a rocket that found the top-left corner of the net at 9:19 for his first goal of the season.
Middlebury went ahead for good in the 31st minute after a ball sent along the left side of the box became a shot for the far post. Wesleyan keeper Adam Purdy '13 leaped to his left, but the ball brushed off his fingertips and sailed in with 30:37 gone.
Middlebury had tied it in the 29th minute. Purdy made a diving stop on a shot but the rebound went to another Panther on the right side, who fired the ball into an open net at 28:59 as Purdy scrambled to get back into position.
The visitors appeared to ice the game in the 84th minute with a one-on-one goal against Purdy. Wesleyan, however, answered just 29 seconds later with another goal from Dixon. Middlebury's keeper dove to punch the ball away from a sea of white jerseys in the box, but Dixon chipped it in from the 18-yard line to make it a 3-2 game. Of Dixon's four career goals, three have come in NESCAC Championship action as he also scored the tying goal against Williams in the 2010 quarterfinals.
Wesleyan continued to apply the pressure but did not generate any dangerous opportunities the rest of the way. Still, Wesleyan managed just three shots on net in the contest. Purdy finished with three saves.
The series has been largely dominated by road teams in recent years. Wesleyan last earned a home win over Middlebury in 1996, but the Panthers have not beaten Wesleyan in Vermont since 2004, as Wesleyan stands 2-0-2 in its last four trips to Middlebury. The teams battled to a 0-0 draw on Oct. 1 at Middlebury.
The win continued a remarkable streak for Middlebury, as the Panthers have made it to the semifinal round in every NESCAC Championship, which began in 2000. Middlebury scored another first-round upset in 2009, when the Panthers entered as the sixth seed but advanced to the title game, losing in overtime on an own goal. The loss also continued a disappointing trend for Wesleyan, as the Cardinals have failed to advance past the first round in four of the last six years, suffering three home quarterfinal upsets in the process, since winning the NESCAC title as the seventh seed in 2005.
This marked the second straight year the seventh seed pulled off a first-round upset, as #7 Wesleyan found itself on the winning end of an upset in 2010, taking down #2 Williams College on the road in overtime, 2-1.