Fourth-seeded Wesleyan came back from a 7-3 deficit to earn an 9-8 win over top-seeded Middlebury in a NESCAC semifinal game played on Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium. The Panthers (13-3) will hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament when the selections are announced late Sunday night.
The game was a tale of two halves, as Middlebury controlled the pace in the first session, playing an up-tempo style and jumped out a 7-3 lead. Wesleyan gained momentum late in the half and then slowed the pace down in the second as they made their run.
Middlebury jumped out to a 2-1 lead before Stew Kerr picked up a ground ball and scored at the 7:24 mark to give the Panthers a 3-1 advantage. Middlebury made it a 4-1 game late in the quarter when Jon Broome scored with a bouncer on the doorstep after a nice feed from Andrew Metros.
The Cardinals started the second quarter by scoring twice to make it a one-goal game with 9:17 remaining. Aidan Daniell scored running to his right, while Graham Macnab cut to his left and scored on the near post.
Middlebury answered with three consecutive goals to take a four-goal lead with 3:44 left in the first half. Kerr ripped a shot home for a man-up goal before Metros scored with a lefty dodge. Metros found Erich Pfeffer on the doorstep for the third goal of the run to make it a 7-3 game.
The Cardinals battled back once again, getting goals from Sam Stanton and the second of the half from Daniell in the final 1:52 to make it a 7-5 game at the break.
Wesleyan opened the second half with a man-up opportunity, capitalizing just 17 seconds in with a goal from David Murphy. The Cardinals tied the game just 1:02 later when Macnab ripped a shot from 12 yards out after taking a feed from Quentin DellaFera. Middlebury broke up the four-goal run at the 6:49 mark when long-stick defender Billy Chapman and Mike Giordano worked a great give-and-go in transition with Chapman finding the back of the net. Wesleyan knotted the game at 8-8 with 2:43 left in the third quarter when Matt Prezioso scored after scooping up a ground ball.
The Cardinals had a great chance to take the lead with a man-up opportunity in the fourth. A blast from the outside by Remy Lieberman was denied by Nate Gaudio, with a stellar point-blank save on Macnab to follow. The Panthers also had a man-up in the quarter, as Scott Redmond's shot was blocked at the 2:56 mark.
Wesleyan took its first lead of the game with 47 seconds remaining, when Macnab scored his fourth of the game and 24th of the season. The Cardinal came from behind the net on the right side, quickly turning and scoring with a sweeping shot from 10 yards out for the 9-8 advantage.
The ensuing face-off went out of bounds with Middlebury earning possession. The teams exchanged timeouts before the Panthers set up a play with 17 seconds remaining. After working the ball around the zone, Broome had a late shot from 10 yards out on the right side for the Panthers. Just as the ball left Broome's stick, the buzzer sounded before the ball flew into the back of the net.
Wesleyan held a 52-30 shots advantage in the game and went a perfect 18-18 in clearing attempts. The Panthers were 16-19 on their clearing attempts, as Brian Foster controlled the X, winning 14 of 20 face-offs on the afternoon with seven ground balls.
Broome and Kerr each scored twice for the Panthers, while Metros earned three assists. Darric White picked up four ground balls, while Gaudio earned 18 saves on the afternoon.
Macnab led all scorers with four goals, while Daniell added a pair. Sam Stanton had a goal and six ground balls for Wesleyan, while Elliot Albert caused five turnovers. JD Dieterich finished with eight saves in goal.
Courtesy: Middlebury Athletic Department
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