Offensive Output Propels Men’s Soccer Past Castleton

Jacob LaBranche netted a pair of goals during Sunday's win.
Jacob LaBranche netted a pair of goals during Sunday's win.

Middlebury tallied a season-best seven goals on Sunday, including three in a span of 13:19 during the first half, en route to a 7-1 non-conference victory over Castleton on South Street Field. The Panthers (4-0-2) return to action Saturday when they host Connecticut College at 12:00 p.m., while the Spartans (2-6-0) travel to Southern Maine at the same time.

Middlebury controlled play in the opening minutes, striking for a goal in the 15th minute of play. Jacob LaBranche scored his first of the year on a header following a setup from Brendan Barry. LaBranche doubled the advantage when he tapped in a cross from Max Drazen at the 26:28 mark. Liam Sloan made it a 3-0 Middlebury lead, redirecting a cross from Drazen at 37:02, before Noah Hannam won a 50-50 ball in the goalmouth with a Spartan defender for his initial goal of the season.

Castleton's best chance of the opening half came in the final seconds when a shot from 35 yards out by Ben Stewart was saved by Panther goalie Ryan Grady.

After the half, Middlebury made it 5-0 when Brandon Reid worked down the left side before scoring on a low shot at the 53:53 mark.

The visitors got on the scoreboard at 59:14 when they were awarded a penalty kick following a Panther infraction. Jack Kingdon banged the ball off the left post and in, just past the outstretched arms of Middlebury keeper Marco Kaper, who came in following the halftime break. The goal snaps a season-opening streak of 549:14 where the Panther defense didn't surrender a goal, as Middlebury was the last team to allow a score in the country.

The Panthers added goals by Shams Mohajerani at 60:40 and Behaylu Barry at 77:12 for the final 7-1 score. The tally was the first of the season for Mohajerani and the initial career score for Barry.

Middlebury held a 35-7 shot advantage over the Spartans and an 11-1 edge in corner kicks.

Grady (4-0-1) picked up his fourth win of the season with a save in the opening half, while Kaper recorded a pair of stops in the final stanza. Alex Fernald (0-3-0) posted 12 saves in front of the Castleton net.

The seven goals mark the most in a single match since a 10-0 win over Green Mountain on September 15, 2015.