Photo by Charlie Quigg '09
Senior tri-captains (left to right) Liz Foley, Piper Crowell and Lesley Pruzansky accept the NESCAC runner-up trophy with Amherst College Athletic Director Suzanne Coffey

Jeffs Fall to Middlebury in Overtime of NESCAC Championship, 1-0

November 5, 2006

AMHERST, MA – The top-seeded Amherst College women’s soccer team entered Sunday’s championship game coming off a decisive 3-0 victory over Bates College in the semifinals, while the Panthers of Middlebury College were coming off an impressive 2-0 victory over Colby College in the semifinals. The championship game was a back-and-forth battle, but the Panthers slightly outplayed the Lord Jeffs, scoring the lone goal of the game in sudden death to emerge as the 2006 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Champions.

Both offenses came out of the gate strong, as Amherst and Middlebury each had a corner kick attempt in the opening five minutes of the game. The Lord Jeffs managed to get a shot on their first corner attempt, but a one-timer by first-year Meg Murphy (Springfield, MA) was saved by the Panthers’ sophomore goalkeeper Adele Plunkett (Austin, TX). The teams were very evenly matched in the first 15 minutes of the game, with both teams setting up good opportunities and attacks, only to be shut down by the aggressive defenses.

The first major threat came with 28 minutes remaining in the half, when an Erin Oliver (Essex Junction, VT) corner kick ended up on the feet of senior midfielder Abby Kurtz-Phelan (Denver, CO), whose shot from 20 yards out rattled the crossbar, forcing Amherst keeper Piper Crowell (San Rafael, CA) to punch the ball out of bounds. Middlebury would have two more consecutive corner kicks, but the Lord Jeff defense would eventually clear the ball out of Amherst territory and escape unharmed.

Middlebury held a slight edge over Amherst for a majority of the first half, keeping the ball in Lord Jeff territory but failing to put together any serious attacks. With 14 minutes remaining in the half, Amherst took back the momentum and attacked the Panthers’ zone. With 10:30 remaining, junior Heather Nowak (New Haven, CT) sent a free kick form the corner to the feet of sophomore Natalie Ferraiolo (Palo Alto, CA), who one-timed the ball over the goal, ending the Amherst rush.

Middlebury would threaten once more before the end of the half, as first-year Nora Weintraub chipped a shot over Crowell to the far post, but the ball sailed just over the goal with 4:15 remaining in the half. Neither team would threaten again, as the championship game remained scoreless entering halftime.

The second half started just as the first half had gone, with the teams battling back-and-forth without being able to capitalize on any opportunities. The first major attack came 17 minutes into the half, when senior captain Lesley Pruzansky (Saratoga, CA) dribbled to the corner and crossed to senior forward Amy Armstrong (Avon, CT), whose shot looked as though it would get past Plunkett, but the Panthers’ defense formed a wall on the goal line to save the shot and clear the ball out of their zone.

Middlebury quickly recovered and countered, putting serious pressure on the Lord Jeffs for seven solid minutes. With 17 minutes remaining in the half, senior captain Kim Walker (Ridgewood, NJ) received a cross from senior Laura Kwoh (Pittsburgh, PA), but her shot was ripped high and wide of the goal. The Panthers would threaten again five minutes later when a loose ball bounced inside the Amherst 18-yard line, but Crowell charged out to grab the loose ball.

The Panthers had a great chance with 11 minutes remaining in the second half when Weintraub ripped a hard shot on target, but Crowell knocked the ball back out to the middle, allowing the defense to once again escape a very good Middlebury attack. The Middlebury offense was relentless for the remainder of the half, however, setting up several scoring opportunities deep in Amherst territory. With six minutes remaining in the half, Crowell turned away a Panther corner kick, but Weintraub settled the loose ball and ripped another hard shot from eight yards out that sailed just wide of the goal. Just one minute later, senior captain Caitrin Abshere (Madison, WI) had her shot sail just high, followed shortly by another Weintraub hard shot, but Crowell picked up another save. Middlebury’s final attack in the second half came with three minutes remaining when Abshere’s shot sailed high, ending a long stretch of Middlebury domination.

With 25 seconds remaining in regulation, Amherst had one final scoring opportunity when first-year Kathy Nolan ‘s (Palo Alto, CA) corner kick hit the head of sophomore Mary Marvell, but the ball sailed over the goal, sending the teams into overtime after 90 hard-fought minutes of scoreless soccer.

The first two-and-a-half minutes of overtime were packed with scoring opportunities for both teams, with Weintraub coming the closest to scoring when she ripped yet another hard, low shot past Crowell, but the ball sailed just wide of the goal. With less than three minutes remaining in the first sudden death period, Weintraub crossed the ball from the corner to Oliver, whose shot went low and to the corner, freezing Crowell on her line. The ball hit the back of the net, and the Middlebury bench stormed the field as the Panthers claimed the 2006 NESCAC Championship.

Both goalkeepers were challenged throughout the game, with Crowell and Plunkett each recording four saves. Middlebury out-shot Amherst 13 to nine, holding a slight offensive edge over the Lord Jeffs over the course of the game, adding seven corner kick attempts to Amherst’s three. Junior defender Elise Tarbi (Stow, MA) played a very solid game for the Panthers, winning several one-on-one battles and beating the Lord Jeffs to many loose balls.

The Panthers stand at 13-2-1 and receive an automatic trip to the upcoming NCAA tournament with their win, while the Lord Jeffs hope to receive an at-large bid with their impressive 12-2-1 record and regular season NESCAC title.