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Panthers nab NCAA bid

MIDDLEBURY - The Middlebury Panthers men's soccer team will be making their ninth appearance in the NCAA tournament when they host Franklin State this Saturday in regional action. The Panthers earned a bid to the tournament despite falling in the NESCAC Championship to Amherst 2-0 this past weekend. Middlebury will enter the regionals with a record of 13-2-2.

Of the 13 Middlebury wins, 11 were shutouts and until the NESCAC Championship game this past Sunday the Panthers had not allowed their opponents to score more than one goal in a game all season.

Middlebury began last weekend by dispatching Williams College 1-0 in the NESCAC semifinals. It was the Panthers fourth straight shutout win in a game where Middlebury held a 12-8 advantage in shots. Sophomore attacker Brooks Farrar scored the game's lone goal in the opening, while Middlebury goalie Brian Bush needed to make just one save to preserve the shutout win. Andrew Graham made 5 saves for Williams who finish their season at 8-6-2.

But then on Sunday in the conference championship Middlebury suffered their first defeat since losing 1-0 to Bates on Oct. 18. Jay Heo and Jake Duker both scored to lead the Amherst Jeff's to a 2-0 win over the Panthers. Along with the win came the NESCAC Conference Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. These two teams could meet again soon. Both squads fired off seven shots, with Busch getting credit for a pair of saves for Middlebury. Amherts's goalie Lannard Kovacs was credited with three saves for the victorious Jeffs, who have drawn western New England in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The women's squad had the same opportunity as the men for a conference championship last weekend, but fell in the semifinals to Amherst 1-0 last Saturday. It was the Panthers second loss to the top seeded Jeffs, losing to them at home 4-1 back on Sept. 13. Amherst out shot the visiting Panthers 14-8, with Meg Murphy scoring the games lone goal in the second half. Allie Horwitz made four saves for the Jeff's who go into the NCAA tournament, while Lauryn Torch made three saves for the Panthers. Middlebury ends their season with an 8-6-2 record.

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