A goal in the 61st minute by Middlebury's Amanda Dafonte proved to the difference in a 1-0 victory over MIT (17-6-1) during NCAA Tournament first-round action on Stevens Institute of Technology's De Baun Athletic Complex. The Panthers improve to 14-4 and will play #9 Stevens (19-1), an 8-0 victor over Colby-Sawyer, on Sunday in the regional final at 5:00 p.m. Middlebury advances to the NCAA Regional Final for the ninth time in the program's history.
The Panthers looked to get on the scoreboard in the fourth minute on Saturday evening, but a shot by Dafonte on an open Engineer net was blocked by a defender. Nearly 13 minutes later, MIT's Emily Berzolla best chance of the opening half came with a shot from just inside the penalty area that sailed just over the crossbar. Middlebury held an 8-3 edge in shots during the initial 45 minutes, while the Engineers had a narrow 3-2 advantage in corner kicks.
Middlebury turned up the offensive pressure out of the halftime break. In the 54th minute on a corner kick, Adrianna Gildner sent a curling ball into the box that found the head of Clare Robinson, but the shot hit the crossbar and bounded away.
The Panthers continued the up-tempo pressure over the next few minutes, breaking through at 60:57. Gildner dribbled down the left sideline, sending a cross to the feet of Dafonte in the middle of the field 22 yards away. Dafonte took two dribbles to her left, lofting a left-footed shot over the outstretched hand of MIT goalkeeper Lauren Ullman. The goal was Dafonte's fourth goal of the season.
Middlebury nearly doubled its lead with a great scoring chance in the 72nd minute when Gildner had a shot from five yards out punched away by the left hand of Ullman.
Looking for the equalizer, MIT had its best scoring opportunity in the 79th minute when Allie Hrabchak had a left-footed shot from eight yards away caught by Middlebury goalkeeper Ursula Alwang on her goal line. The attempt was the Engineers' first shot on goal of the match.
In the 89th minute, MIT had one final attempt to tie the match when Berzolla rifled a shot from the right side 25 yards out that hit the left post, bounced off the back of the diving Alwang before the Panther keeper leapt up, turned around and jumped on the loose ball.
Alwang needed just one save for her second shutout of the season, while Ullman finished with three saves for the Engineers. Middlebury held a 12-6 advantage in shots, while MIT had a narrow 4-3 edge in corner kicks.
With the victory, Panther head coach Peter Kim collects his 150th career win. In 13 seasons at the helm of the program, he boasts a record of 150-55-26 (.706) and is the program's all-time leader in victories.