Fifth-ranked Tufts scored with 2:10 left in the second half, en route to a 2-1 victory over Middlebury on Sunday in the NESCAC Men's Soccer Championship. The second-seeded Jumbos (13-2-2) receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, awaiting their opponent when the field is announced on Monday afternoon. The sixth-seeded Panthers (8-3-7), who advanced to the league's title match for the 10th time, will hope to garner an at-large bid.
Middlebury controlled possession for the majority of the first 20 minutes before the Jumbos generated the first of their three quality scoring chances in the initial stanza. The first came in the 26th minute when Zach Lane ripped a right-footed shot from inside the box as Panther goalie Ryan Grady made a kick save.
Two minutes later, Middlebury had its best chance of the half when Brendan Barry beat Tufts keeper Erich Kindermann to a 50-50 ball near the penalty-kick dot, but Kindermann was able to cut down the angle enough to get his shoulder on the ball and deflect it away. Grady tallied a pair of highlight saves over the final nine minutes. The first came when he used his knee to deny a close-range attempt by Alex Ratzan, before thwarting a half volley attempt by Ian Daly with four minutes remaining on the left post to keep the match scoreless at the half.
The Jumbos jumped on the scoreboard first with 32:24 showing on the second-half clock. Max Jacobs sent a low, left-footed shot on a cross from Gavin Tasker past a diving Grady into the bottom-right corner. The goal was Jacobs fourth of the season.
Eight minutes later, Middlebury nearly tied the match, but Kindermann deflected a header with his body by Jacob LaBranche on a ball in the box. The Panthers knotted the contest with 11:03 remaining when Max Drazen dribbled once to his right on a loose ball to gain space with the Jumbo defender. Drazen blasted a knuckling shot from 30 yards out that skipped past Kindermann into the left side of the goal for Drazen's second goal of the year.
Tufts recorded the eventual game-winning goal when Calvin Aroh lofted a ball into the middle to Joseph Braun. Braun chested it down to his feet, before volleying an attempt just under the crossbar with 2:10 left in regulation for his fifth goal of the season.
The Jumbos held a 20-9 advantage in shots, while each team had four corner kicks. Grady made nine saves in goal, while Kindermann made two saves for Tufts. The Jumbos edged Middlebury in overtime by a 2-1 score on October 26 in Massachusetts.