November 5, 2012

The Panther field hockey team won its second NESCAC Championship with a 3-2 shootout victory over Bowdoin in a game played on Kohn Field. The top-ranked Panthers remain perfect on the season at 17-0 and will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Sixth-ranked Bowdoin falls to 14-3 on the year and is expected to get an at-large selection to the tournament. Bowdoin had won each of the last six NESCAC Championship games they took part in, with seven overall titles and nine championship game appearances. Middlebury was making its sixth appearance in the title game, earning its previous crown in ’03. The game was the second NESCAC Championship contest to go into a shootout, with Bowdoin taking the title over Williams in ’05. Bowdoin suffers just its second loss in NESCAC Tournament play since ’05, with Middlebury avenging a 2-1 loss in the title game a year ago.

Bowdoin took a 1-0 lead just 2:01 into the game when Kassey Matoin scored her second goal of the season with a shot to the bottom left side of the cage on a penalty stroke. Middlebury answered 1:23 later when first-year player Anna Kenyon (Dedham, Mass.) sent a centering pass from the right side towards the goal. Sophomore Alyssa DiMaio (Morristown, N.J.) was there to knock it in for her seventh of the year to tie the game at 1-1.

The Polar Bears took a 2-1 lead late in the first half, when Rachel Kennedy scored her team-leading 14th goal of the season. Molly Paduda sent a pass towards the middle where Kennedy was there to sweep it in. Middlebury threatened with two late penalty corners and a pair of shots on net, but entered halftime with a 2-1 deficit.

Middlebury thought they had tied the game at the 48:54 mark of the second half, but a goal was waved off due to a high stick. Following a Bowdoin timeout, the Polar Bears came back strong, with Kennedy being denied in the 50th minute on a nice save by Middlebury senior keeper Madeline Brooks (Clayton, Mo.), who came out to challenge the play. Brooks again denied Kennedy in the 57th minute, with an unsuccessful penalty corner to follow.

Middlebury tied the game with just 6:30 remaining, with senior Lauren Greer (N. Hampton, N.H.) netting her NESCAC-best 34th of the year. Junior Katherine Theiss (Wilmette, Ill.) sent a pass to Greer, whose hard shot deflected off a defender and into the goal to tie the game at 2-2.

The first overtime saw no great scoring chances, with each team earning two shots with a pair of penalty corner opportunities for Bowdoin. The Polar Bears had a good look 2:30 into the second overtime session, but a high shot by Cathleen Smith on a penalty corner was turned away by Brooks. 

Middlebury had the best chance to take home the title with 3:20 left, but Greer’s penalty stroke high to the right was stopped by Kayla Lessard to preserve the 2-2 tie. Katie Riley of Bowdoin drove 40 yards down the field late in the game, ending in a pair of unsuccessful penalty corners for the Polar Bears as time had expired.

After 100 minutes of play, the game entered a five-round shootout. Cathleen Smith and Kennedy scored early for Bowdoin, with Greer converting for the Panthers. Middlebury junior Elinore O’Brien (New Canaan, Conn.) was stopped by Lessard to give the Polar Bears a 2-1 lead after two rounds.

Brooks made a nice poke save to deny Riley, before Lessard stopped two shots from Kenyon to keep it 2-1. A flip shot went wide left for Matoin, before senior Charlotte Gardiner (Larchmont, N.Y.) tied the shootout at 2-2 with a shot to the right side.

Bowdoin looked to take the lead in the final round, but Adrienne O’Donnell missed wide after a deke move on Brooks. After faking a shot and a nice spin move, Middlebury sophomore Catherine Fowler (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) found the right side of the net to give the Panthers the title.

Bowdoin held a slight 15-13 shots advantage in the game, with a 13-5 edge in penalty corners. Brooks and Lessard each finished with nine saves apiece.

Greer scored just 2:34 into overtime to lift the Panthers to a 3-2 overtime win over Amherst in a NESCAC Semifinal game played on Kohn Field.

Amherst had its best chance in the 14th minute with a flurry of shots on the Panther net. Following a turnover, Krista Zsitvay was one-on-one with Brooks but was denied by a nice pad save. Katie Paolano’s follow-up was saved before junior Meredith Rowe (Kenilworth, Ill.) made a defensive save on a second shot by Paolano.

Middlebury broke through at the 18:01 mark with a goal on a penalty corner. DiMaio inserted to Greer on the left side, with Greer ripping a shot into the low far side of the goal for her 32nd of the season.

The Panthers nearly took a 2-0 lead late in the half, but the ball had just gone over the end line before Kenyon found Theiss for the apparent goal.

Amherst tied the game up at the 39:15 mark of the second half on a penalty corner. After a shot from Paolano was saved, Madeline Tank scored her team-leading 12th of the year during a scramble. The goal was the first allowed by Middlebury in a span of 614:32, dating back to a September 29th game at Wesleyan.

Middlebury regained the lead at 55:13, when Theiss earned her 17th of the season. DiMaio inserted a corner to Greer, whose shot was stopped by a defensive save from Annie Turnbull. Thiess used a reverse stick to knock the ball into the cage out of mid-air to give her team a 2-1 advantage.

The Panthers kept coming with lots of pressure following the goal, but could not increase their lead despite three straight penalty corners.

The Jeffs tied the game with just 2:37 remaining in the game, after Zsitvay was awarded a penalty stroke. Middlebury brought sophomore goalkeeper Emily Knapp (Scarsdale, N.Y.) in off the bench, but Zsitvay’s shot to the top left corner would not be denied as she joined Tank for the team-lead with her 12th of the season.

The seven-on-seven overtime did not last long, with Middlebury being awarded a penalty corner early. Gardiner inserted to Greer on the left side, with Greer carrying the ball towards the goal with a quick move before finding the far corner of the cage for the game-winner.

The contest ended with Amherst holding a slight 12-11 shots advantage, with 10 corners for each squad. Brooks earned five saves to pick up the win, while Rachel Tannenbaum also made five stops for the Jeffs.

• Field Hockey record: 17-0

• Up next: 11/10-11 – Host NCAA Regional – Midd vs. TBA @ 11:00