MIDDLEBURY — The host Middlebury College women’s soccer team defeated Endicott, 2-1, in Sunday’s NCAA Division III regional final and will move onto an NCAA sectional next weekend at a site to be announced on Monday.
The 15-1-3 Panthers will meet Misericordia (19-2-1) in Saturday’s round-of-16 game, while Johns Hopkins (19-8-1) will meet Middlebury’s NESCAC rival Williams (13-3-2) in the other half of the regional bracket. Saturday’s winners will meet on Sunday for the right to go to the final four in San Antonio, Texas, on Dec. 6 and 7.
After Sunday’s game, Coach Peter Kim of the No. 13 Panthers said his team will be just happy to keep taking the field together.
“They love playing, and they’re ready to take on whoever we draw next,” Kim said. “We just want to play.”
Certainly, the Panthers have to feel confident. After also defeating Bridgewater State in Saturday’s first round, 5-0, they have outscored their opponents, 42-9, this season, and have an 18-game unbeaten string.
Despite a couple late anxious moments vs. Endicott, Kim said he is fully confident in a defense that includes all-star senior goalie Elizabeth Foody, Lindsay Kingston and Sophia Kligler in the middle, and Molly Parizeau and Moria Sloan on the flanks.
“We have one of the best goalkeepers in the country, and that back line I’ll put up against anybody,” Kim said. “As a group of them they’ve had a great season, and we’re very difficult to score against.”
Senior Scarlett Kirk, who scored her team-best 12th of the season vs. Endicott on Saturday, headlines the offense, and Jamie Soroka (five goals, five assists) and midfielder Julia Favorito (four goals, seven assists) have been among many chipping in.
Freshman Adrianna Gildner, finally healthy after a season of injury and illness, also became a major factor this weekend with a goal and an assist on Saturday and what proved to be the game-winner on Sunday. She now has five goals on the year, too.
This emergence of a player he called “lethal near the goalmouth” to complement Kirk could be key, Kim said.
“Scarlett has been our load-bearer for the last four years,” Kim said. “To have a true goal-scorer come alongside Scarlett now is great timing.”
Kirk, with help from Sloan, got the Panthers on the board on Sunday vs. Endicott (16-6-2 and a 1-0 winner on Saturday over Scranton). Sloan sent a corner kick from the left side perfectly to the middle, where Scarlett Kirk headed the ball home.
The Panthers earned some decent chances throughout the rest of the first half and possessed the ball for much of the play; in all, they outshot the Gulls, 15-2, and earned a 9-1 edge in corner kicks.
Middlebury had a good chance in the 65th minute, when Sarah Noble sent a bouncing ball toward the goal. Kirk and Endicott keeper Katie Donnelly (five saves) both challenged for the ball, but it eluded them and Gull defender Clare Mansfield cleared it away.
At 78:43, the Panthers scored again. Gildner picked up the ball outside the top right corner of the box and beat a defender. From just inside the 18 she ripped an angled blast off the underside of the crossbar and inside the far post.
Endicott finally applied some pressure, and nearly made the most of its only two shots. At 4:07 LeeAnn Card sent a hard cross along the end line that Foody could not control. Shelby McLenithan banged the loose ball high into the net from close range to make it 2-1.
After the Panthers couldn’t clear a long direct kick with about two minutes to go, Endicott’s Madison Missinne had a look from well inside the penalty stripe, but it sailed just over the crossbar.
Despite the late tense moments, Kim was not unhappy.
“We knew that Endicott was a team full of heart, and they were going to battle and try to punish us for any mistakes and turnovers we made,” Kim said. “We had to take care of the ball pretty well, and we did that for a good proportion of the time.”
On Saturday, despite the Panthers’ domination, it took them 34:34 to break the ice. The Bears cleared a direct kick out of the box, but Parizeau lofted it back in to Kirk off to the left of the goal. Kirk headed it back across the box to Gildner, who drilled a left-footed volley inside the far post.
At 42:04 the Panthers made it 2-0 on a counterattack started by Katlyn Casey down the left side. Casey fed Gildner, who broke in on Bear goalie Kerry Condon. Condon forced Gildner wide, but she curled the ball back across the goalmouth to onrushing classmate Grace Woroch, who rattled the ball home off the right post.
At 5:22 of the second half, Moria Sloan made a nice feed to Jamie Soroka on the left, and her shot found the far post for her fifth of the season. Woroch struck again at 66:06, one-timing a cross from Kirk to make it 4-0. Freshman Amanda Hotvedt capped the scoring with a penalty kick at 70:19; it was the first goal of her career.
Middlebury finished with a 20-2 shots advantage. Elizabeth Foody finished with one save. Condon (nine saves) and Emma Titus (two stops) shared time for the 9-8-2 Bears.
“In Saturday’s game we pretty much controlled the run of the play the entire game, so it was nice to be able to get everybody in and keep people fresh for today,” Kim said.
After Sunday’s game, the Panthers were awaiting word where they would compete next weekend.
“We’re excited,” Kim said. “One way or another, we’re going to go play and we’re going to love every minute of it,”
UPDATE 10:40 A.M. — Middlebury will host an NCAA sectional game this weekend, the college announced. The Panthers will take on Misericordia on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 11 a.m.