April 30, 2012

The Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team advanced to the NESCAC Semifinals with a 12-8 win over Tufts on Kohn Field. The third-seeded Panthers (11-3) advance to next weekend’s championship tournament at Trinity, where they will battle fourth-seeded Amherst. Sixth-seeded Tufts falls to 9-6 on the season. The game was a rematch of last year’s NESCAC Quarterfinals, where the #5 Jumbos knocked off the #4 Panthers, 13-12. The two teams met back on March 25th in Medford, a 16-5 Middlebury win.

Middlebury took a 2-0 lead in the first 4:49 on goals from junior Michaela Colbert (Topsfield, Mass.) and rookie Katie Ritter (Middlebury, Vt.). Tufts’ Kerry Eaton scored with a pass from behind the net by Kelly Hyland, before Middlebury sophomore Liza Herzog (Baltimore, Md.)  scored with a great fake after a feed from sophomore Hannah Deoul (Stevenson, Md.) to make it a 3-1 game. The Panthers led 3-2 before scoring the final five goals of the first half to take an 8-2 lead into the intermission. Junior Emma Kramer (Riverside, Conn.) scored the first and last goals of the run, converting a feed from senior Elizabeth Garry (Mamaroneck, N.Y.) in transition with 59 seconds remaining.

Tufts came out strong in the second half, scoring the first four goals to cut the advantage to 8-6 at the 17:19 mark. Eaton scored twice during the run, with Gabby Horner scoring on a drive to the goal to put the Jumbos back in the game.

Colbert converted a free position for Middlebury to end the run, while Herzog followed with a quick turn-around move after a feed from Deoul at the 12:41 mark.

            The Jumbos answered with a pair as Eaton found Lara Kozin before converting a free position to make it a 10-8 game with 11:48 remaining.

The turning point in the game came on Tufts’ next possession, as Sterling Champion was denied by a big save from Middlebury senior Lily Nguyen (Oakland, Calif.). The tally would’ve made it a one-goal game, but instead, the Panthers went coast-to-coast as junior Margaret Souther (Scarsdale, N.Y.) found Herzog for her third of the game. The goal gave Middlebury an 11-8 lead with 9:29 left to play. Souther added a free position score at the 6:33 mark to secure the victory for the Panthers.

Colbert aided Herzog’s effort with three goals of her own, while Souther and Kramer each scored twice. Herzog also caused four turnovers and picked up four ground balls, while Deoul dished out three assists with three ground balls. Nguyen finished the game with five saves to earn the win.

Earlier in the week, Emily Whicker scored off a pass from Lilly Wellenbach with 2:16 remaining in the third overtime to lift Williams to a 15-14 upset victory over seventh-ranked Middlebury.

Emily Jablonski had three goals and five assists to lead the Ephs’ offense, and Ali Piltch finished the game with 15 saves to help the Ephs finish the season a high note.

Souther led the way for the Panthers with five goals and two assists. Sophomore Alyssa Palomba (Shrewsbury, Mass.) made six saves, filling in for an ill Nguyen.

Middlebury jumped on the Ephs early, forcing a save from Piltch only 15 seconds in and scoring after only 46 seconds when Souther beat Piltch bottom left on a solo foray to the net. However, Williams pulled even soon thereafter; Rebecca McGovern, cutting through the center of the Middlebury defense, had her stick checked as she shot, and the ball snuck by Palomba 4:30 into the game to make the score 1-1.

At that point, the Panthers jumped on Williams, going on a three goal run sparked by another solo effort from Souther with 22:03 to play in the half. Deoul and Herzog followed up with goals with 19:46 and 17:53 remaining. The Ephs were then able to stop the Panther attack, as Emily Whicker scored on a free position shot with 12:03 to play to end the Middlebury run and make the score 4-2. However, Middlebury went back up three when Ritter cut through the middle, received a pass from Colbert from behind the net, and scored with 11:06 to play.

The Ephs were able to pull back within one with two goals over the following five minutes. The first came after co-captain Margie Fulton received a pass from Jablonski cutting left to right and beat Palomba with 9:18 to play, and the second came when McGovern scored her second of the day after receiving a pass from Taylor Fleishheicker at the top of the crease and beating Palomba low to make the score 5-4 and force a Middlebury timeout.

Deoul was able to extended Middlebury’s lead back to two with 3:03 to play after receiving a pass at the top of the crease from Souther and beating Piltch to make the score 6-4. Middlebury possessed for much of the remaining time, but Piltch stopped a free position shot with 25 seconds remaining and the Ephs closed out the half down two.

The opening of the second half saw the Ephs and Panthers trade goals, with Fulton scoring for Williams on an assist from Whicker 1:42 into the half and Herzog scoring an unassisted goal 3:51 in.

Following Herzog’s goal, Williams’ offense had one of its best stretches of the season, ripping off a run of six consecutive goals to take an 11-7 lead. Jablonski was the key to the run, finding Fulton at the top of the crease for each of the first two goals and scored three goals of her own. The highlight of the run came in the 10th minute of the half. Piltch stopped a free position shot with 20:40 to play and cleared the ball to Sam Weinstein, who sprinted up the field and found Jablonski alone on the top of the crease. Jablonski then beat Palomba with 20:27 to play after faking high, putting the Ephs up 10-7. Jablonski’s next goal, on a man-up opportunity with 16:42 remaining, capped the run and made the score 11-7.

Middlebury soon responded to the Ephs. The Panthers ripped off a run of four consecutive goals over the following six minutes to tie the game, scoring on a free position shot from Souther, a one-on-one opportunity for first-year player Catherine Fowler (Grosse Pointe, Mich.), a goal from Colbert, and a shot from Garry off an assist from Ritter with 11:20 to play. Lilly Wellenbach was able to put a stop to the Panthers’ run with 10:32 to play off an assist from Jablonski, but Souther tied the game 20 seconds later, firing a left-handed shot to beat Piltch and make the score 12-12. 

The teams traded possession for several minutes following Souther’s goal before Middlebury retook the lead after Ritter scored on an assist from Souther with 6:59 to play in the half. However, Williams did not let Ritter’s goal go unanswered long, as Weinstein was able to score off another assist from Jablonski only 25 seconds later to tie the game at 13. The teams were unable to muster any shots on goal in the final minutes, sending them to overtime.

Weinstein was again on her game for the Ephs in the first extra period, scoring only 1:13 in to give Williams the lead. Palomba had come out of the net to pick up a ground ball off a blocked shot, but Weinstein forced a turnover and earned a free position shot with Palomba still outside the crease; Weinstein was able to fire following the restart of the game to give Williams the 14-13 lead. However, the Panthers yet again came back, when Souther tied the game with an unassisted effort after weaving the Eph defense with 2:34 into the OT, and the teams soon went into a second overtime tied at 14.

The goalies came up big in the second OT, as Piltch made a save one-on-one with Colbert 45 seconds in second overtime, and Palomba made a save with 30 seconds to play in the period to send the game to a third extra period.

Middlebury won the draw in the third OT, but McGovern quickly forced a turnover, and the Ephs took possession in their offensive zone. Soon thereafter, Wellenbach had the ball behind the goal, and found Whicker diving to the net, and Whicker fired past Palomba to give Williams the victory. 

• Women’s lacrosse record: 11-3

• Up next: 5/5 vs. Amherst @ Trinity (NESCAC Semifinals) – 2:30