Second-Seeded Panthers Edge Wesleyan in NESCAC Quarterfinal

Ellie Bavier scored the game-winning goal in Saturday's second half.
Ellie Bavier scored the game-winning goal in Saturday's second half.

Middlebury's Ellie Bavier netted the game-winning goal with 13:23 remaining on Saturday, lifting the second-seeded Panthers (12-1-3) to a 2-1 victory over seventh-seeded Wesleyan (9-5-2) in the NESCAC Quarterfinals. With the win, the defending NESCAC Champions advance to the championship weekend of the tournament hosted by top-seeded Tufts. Middlebury will take on third-seeded Williams in one semifinal, while the Jumbos will square off against fourth-seeded Amherst in the other contest.

The Panthers jumped on the scoreboard 4:07 into the opening half. After a Cardinal foul 40 yards out, Eliza Robinson served a ball into the box that was headed down by a couple different players. The loose ball found the foot of Simone Ameer, who volleyed a left-footed shot into the back of the net for her team-best ninth goal of the season. Wesleyan's best chance of the frame came in the 19th minute when a bouncing shot by Remi Feuerman from 30 yards out was corralled by Panther keeper Ursula Alwang.             

Middlebury nearly doubled its lead in the final seconds of the frame when Gretchen McGrath ripped a crossing attempt that grazed off the crossbar and came down. The loose ball was collected by Ellie Greenberg, but her attempt was stopped by Cardinal goalie Sarah Hammond on the goal line.

After the halftime break, Wesleyan turned up the offensive pressure, knotting the contest with 28:49 left in regulation on a nifty give-and-go on the right sideline between Julia Meehan and Dani Milovanov. Milovanov blasted a shot from 30 yards out that sailed just over the hand of Panther goalie Eva Shaw, who entered in the first half, for her second goal of the season.

The visitors nearly took the lead six minutes later, but a header that was redirected by Gianna Argento was saved on the right post by Shaw. The Panthers took the lead in the 77th minute when Bavier one-touched a cross from Olivia Miller into the net for her second goal of the season. Wesleyan looked to tie the score in the final minute, but a tough-angled shot from Grace Devanny was stopped by Shaw to secure the win for Middlebury.  

Shaw made three saves for the Panthers in the final 59:23 of action to earn the victory, while Alwang had a pair of stops in 30:37. Hammond finished with two saves for Wesleyan. Middlebury came away with a narrow 11-10 edge in shots and a 3-1 advantage in corner kicks.

The Panthers improve to 17-0-5 in their last 22 home matches.