Amid all the festivities during Parents and Family Weekend, on Saturday, the women’s soccer team matched up in a NESCAC battle against Middlebury. It was senior day, and from the beginning of the game, the high intensity and electric atmosphere were apparent. However, it was more than just a senior day victory on the line for the Jumbos. With a win against Middlebury, the team would keep its hopes alive for home-field advantage in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs. All of this, alongside the fact that the last time the Jumbos beat the Panthers was in 2010, gave the players all the motivation they needed to give everything they had in pursuit of a victory.
Early on, it was clear how important this game was for the Jumbos. Whether from the constant shouts of encouragement from the bench or the all-out effort from those on the field, it was easy to understand why the team dominated play in the first half. In fact, as a result of this early effort, the Jumbos took the lead in the 20th minute after senior midfielder Maddie Pero won a ball and then rocketed it into the bottom left corner of the net from outside of the box to make the score 1–0.
“The last time I had run at that particular center back, she had made a really nice play. That happened a couple minutes earlier. So, I knew I wanted to shoot early rather than late because she’s pretty good,” Pero said.
Following the goal, Pero sprinted across the field to the bench and celebrated with teammates. They were ecstatic as they knew that to beat a powerhouse like Middlebury, they needed to come out strong, and Pero’s goal demonstrated their success in doing that.
However, despite the squad’s control of play, they did not maintain this lead for the entirety of the match. In the 73rd minute of play, Middlebury’s junior midfielder Carolyn Days sent an aerial ball into the box to junior forward Ella Gagnon, which was contested by senior goalkeeper Kaelin Logue. Gagnon then beat Logue to the ball, flicking the ball into the net to equalize the contest at 1–1.
Even with several chances for each side to add to their goal tally on the day, nobody was able to capitalize, and the game ended in a 1–1 draw. Although the Jumbos may not have entered the day with the expectation that they would win, the result was still disappointing for the team. After all, the squad was leading for most of the game and seemingly controlled play, leading in shots (12–8) and corner kicks (8–3). But what was most hurtful to the squad about the draw was the game’s playoff implications: losing this game denied the Jumbos the opportunity to host a first-round NESCAC playoff match.
“Last year we had to go to Hamilton — that was really hard — and we obviously ended up losing in the quarterfinals … But I think that this year we’re so much more confident in our abilities. We have beaten big teams on the road, like beating MIT away, beating Wesleyan away, beating Amherst away. We know we can show up in those games when it’s not on our home field and throw teams around,” Pero said.
As the squad heads into the postseason with a record of 9–4–2, this confidence, along with the squad’s mentality of going 1–0 every day that Logue often emphasizes, will be crucial to the Jumbos’ success.
“We can make a deep postseason run this year as long as we show up. There’s nothing, no team that can stand in our way as long as we show up to play our game with our high level of energy on any given day,” Pero said.
The Jumbos start their postseason run on the road on Saturday, and it will serve as an immediate test of whether the squad has what it takes to win in such difficult matches.