Wesleyan, seeded eighth, upset top-seeded Middlebury in a NESCAC quarterfinal contest, 2-0, behind goals from Isabel Clements '16 (#10, photo lower left) and Laura Kurash '13 (#8, photo upper left). The 11th-ranked Panthers fell to 12-2-1 on the season and will await a possible NCAA bid while the Cardinals (7-7-1) will travel to Williams to take on the host school in the semifinals Sat., Nov. 3. Middlebury held a 22-4 shots advantage in the game and led 9-0 in corner kicks, but could not find the back of the net as for the fourth time this year, a combination of Jess Tollman '15 (#30, photo upper right and Rachel Hobert '16 (#0, photo lower right) combined for a Wesleyan shutout.
Wesleyan wasted little time taking a 1-0 lead just 3:42 into the game. Kerry Doyle '14 served the ball on a free kick from 35 yards out on the right side. The ball bounced once in front of the Panther keeper before Clements was able to put a head on it and score with a shot high into the net for her second tally of the season.
Middlebury had a great chance in the 30th minute when a crossing pass from was headed just over the crossbar. The Panthers threatened again just a minute later, but the opportunity from 15 yards was thwarted on a great save from Tollman, who finished with three during the first half.
Trailing 1-0, Middlebury looked to tie the game in the 65th minute, when a left-footed shot from 18 yards out on the right side hit the far post. The Panthers continued to pressure the Wesleyan net, but were unable to get a shot Holbert, who came in to play the second half for the Cardinals and amassed five saves.
Wesleyan gained some breathing room at the 80:20 mark, with a high lofting shot from 18 yards out on the right side went over the head of the Middlebury goalie and into the far side of the net. The goal was the team-leading ninth of the season for Kurash, assisted by Kaylin Berger '13. Kurash, who has paced Wesleyan in scoring each of her four years, was named a CoSIDA/Capital One District II academic All-American for the second year in a row and will be on the national ballot for further recognition the end of November.
Middlebury looked to break-up the shutout in the final few minutes, but a rising shot hit the crossbar from 25 yards out.
It is the second straight year the Cardinals have advanced to the NESCAC semis, having gotten by Tufts on penalty kicks a year ago. Wesleyan played at Williams earlier this season, falling to the Ephs, 3-1. The other semifinal pits third-seeded Amherst against fourth-seeded Bowdoin.
It is also the third time in the last three years that a Cardinal team, seeded eighth, has risen up to conquer a top seed in a NESCAC tournament. In 2010, the men's lacrosse team upended Conn. College, 6-5, as an eighth seed, and in 2011, men's ice hockey downed top-seeded Hamilton, 5-2, as a last seed.
(photos courtesy of Diane Stone P'15)