Third-ranked Middlebury advanced to the NCAA Championship match for the first time in program history behind a 1-0 upset of top-ranked Washington University-St. Louis (21-1-0) Friday at the UNCG Soccer Complex in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Panthers (19-1-3), who continue to increase their program single-season record for wins, will face fifth-ranked Williams in an All-NESCAC championship match on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Middlebury was edged 1-0 by the host Ephs in the regular-season finale on October 23, before earning a 1-0 win over Williams in the NESCAC Championship.
The chances were limited through the opening 45 minutes of the contest, with much of the action happening in the midfield. WashU had its best chance in the 24th minute when Jessica Kovach hit a knuckling and bouncing shot that Middlebury goalie Ursula Alwang went down and blocked with her upper body. The rebound squirted just out of Alwang's reach, but she corralled the loose ball.
Six minutes later, Middlebury managed its greatest opportunity on a corner kick, but Simone Ameer's redirection of the bending kick went just wide of the right post.
Following the halftime break, the Panthers got on the scoreboard just 2:33 into the second stanza. Gretchen McGrath sent a ball into the penalty box from the left that Ellie Greenberg headed back to Ameer. The second-year Panther volleyed the ball out of the air with her left foot, ripping a shot that curled just inside the left post for her fourth goal of the season. The tally marked the first time all season that the Bears had trailed in a match and was just the sixth allowed by WashU in 22 matches this season.
The Bears managed seven shots in the final 15 minutes of the contest, with the greatest chance to knot the score occurring in the 82nd minute. As part of a corner kick, Caroline Dempsey sent a ball into the penalty area that found the head of Maggie Crist, but her header sent toward the right post was denied by a diving save by Alwang to her left.
The Panthers thwarted any chances in the closing minutes to move on to Saturday's NCAA title match.
Alwang finished the contest with three saves and her ninth shutout of the season, while WashU's Emma Greenfield didn't make a save. The Bears held a 12-3 advantage in shots and a 4-1 edge in corner kicks.
Friday's contest marked the first time that the two programs have played each other in women's soccer. Middlebury has now recorded 13 shutouts as a team this season, including each of the last four NCAA Tournament contests. The 13 clean sheets erase the previous single-season mark of 12 set during the 2000 season. The Panther defense extended its scoreless streak to 419:29.