May 14, 2012

The Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team defeated defending national champion Gettysburg, 15-9, in the NCAA Regional Finals on Sunday afternoon. The victory sends the Panthers (15-4) to the final four to face top-ranked and unbeaten Salisbury University (21-0) in the national semifinals on Saturday, May 19, at 1 p.m. at Montclair State University. The other national semifinal will pit SUNY Cortland (20-1) against Trinity College (19-1) at 4 p.m. Gettysburg, ranked No. 3 in the latest national poll, closes the season with a 19-2 overall record.

The week began as Middlebury had little trouble with Norwich, handing the Cadets a 19-1 loss in an NCAA Tournament first-round game on Kohn Field.            

Middlebury scored on its first four possessions, taking a 4-0 lead just 3:04 into the game. Sophomore Liza Herzog (Baltimore, Md.) found first-year player Catherine Fowler (Grosse Point, Mich.) in front just 32 seconds in, before junior Margaret Souther (Scarsdale, N.Y.) scored twice in 36 seconds. Junior Emma Kramer (Riverside, Conn.), senior Elizabeth Garry (Mamaroneck, N.Y.) and Fowler followed with free position goals to make it a 6-0 game. The Panthers ran off five more goals, taking an 11-0 advantage with 10:25 left to play. Garry scored from a wide angle off a feed from Fowler, before Souther and sophomore Hannah Deoul (Stevenson, Md.) scored 20 seconds apart to make it 9-0 at the 16:36 mark. Junior Ellen Halle (Upperco, Md.) found junior Dani DeMarco (Norwell, Mass.) at 12:03 with a quick-stick goal, before scoring one of her own at 10:25.

Norwich’s lone goal came with 2:42 left in the half. Kacey Abbriano drove downfield and dodged two defenders before scoring her team-leading 62nd of the season. Rookie Colleen Sullivan (Madison, N.J.) answered for the Panthers with 1:09 remaining to make it an 11-1 game at the half.

The goals continued in the second half, with Halle assisting on three of the first four goals.  She found Sullivan on two similar goals at 25:24 and 19:02 to make it a 16-1 game. Halle scored a goal of her own driving past defenders at the 12:25 mark, while sophomore Dee Miller (Rye, N.Y.) closed out the scoring with the game’s final two tallies.

Halle led the Panthers with a seven point game, earning two goals and five assists. Souther and Sullivan scored three times apiece, while Fowler, DeMarco and Miller each had two goals and an assist. Rookie Kate Butcher (Garden City, N.Y.) paced the team with four ground balls, while Fowler had three draw controls. Senior Lily Nguyen (Oakland, Calif.) made one save in the first half, while sophomore Alyssa Palomba (Shrewsbury, Mass.) made four second half stops.

Middlebury overpowered Montclair State at Gettysburg, holding the Red Hawks to just one shot and forcing 17 turnovers in the opening half alone on its way to a 12-5 win. The Panther offense was patient to start with rookie Katie Ritter’s (Middlebury, Vt.) tally standing as the only score for the first 12 minutes.

The offensive pace picked up as the team turned in six goals over the next 10 minutes. Souther tallied three in a row, including a player-up goal and a free-position goal to set the score at 7-0 with eight minutes remaining in the first period. Fowler and Kramer lifted Middlebury to a 9-0 lead at the half with goals in the final 1:37.

Deoul gave the Panthers a 10-0 edge with the first goal of the final stanza, allowing the team to rest a number of starters for Sunday’s finale. Montclair State scored four of the final five goals of the contest.

Middlebury held significant leads in shots (31-14) and ground balls (29-15) and forced the Red Hawks into 27 turnovers. Montclair State held the edge in draw controls at 12-7.

Souther and Kramer each scored three times, while Ritter added two goals and one assist for the Panthers. Senior Hannah Epstein (Pennington, N.J.) paced the defense with three caused turnovers and junior Heather Marrison (Brewster, N.Y.) added two caused turnovers and seven ground balls. Nguyen picked up four saves against three goals allowed.

The goalies set an early tone in the game against Gettysburg, with big saves in the opening minutes, but the visitors finally found pay-dirt almost 10 minutes into the contest as junior Michaela Colbert (Topsfield, Mass.) connected on her second free-position attempt at 20:27.

The Bullets didn’t let the lead last long, converting on a pair of player-up opportunities. Kenny tallied the first goal off a feed from Church at 17:45, and just 1:22 later, Robinson found Bailey Beardsley to make it 2-1. Middlebury wasted less than a minute in retaliating as Garry connected on another free-position attempt at 15:38 to tie the game.

Gettysburg turned in its largest lead of the game with back-to-back tallies by Loren Pruitt and Church to put the advantage at 4-2 with 9:26 to play.

The Panthers quickly regained the upper-hand, however, with the next four goals, including three off free-position attempts. Garry gave the visitors a 6-4 lead with her third goal of the half at 5:24. Kenny sliced the deficit to one with another man-up goal for Gettysburg, but Herzog scored with just 12 ticks left in the half to set the score at 7-5.

After Robinson pulled Gettysburg to 9-8 at 16:22, Kramer scored yet another free-position tally to push the lead back to two halfway through the final period. With Middlebury receiving another yellow card, the Bullets pushed their player advantage and scored their fourth man-up goal of the day as Pruitt connected on a free-position shot to pull the score to 10-9 with over 12 minutes remaining.

After standing even off the draw for the majority of the game, the Panthers stepped up in the final 15 minutes and won four consecutive draw controls. Middlebury turned a pair of three-minute possessions into goals with Garry giving the team a 12-9 lead with 6:12 to play.

Gettysburg forced a turnover on Middlebury’s next possession, but the Bullets came up empty as senior Lucy Jackson (Bronxville, N.Y.) knocked the ball away from Robinson and came up with the ground ball. Ritter turned in a man-up goal on a free-position shot with 3:56 to play to push the lead to four.

Facing elimination, the Bullets pressed on the defensive end, pulling the goalie to force double teams on the ball. The Panthers made the hosts pay, netting two easy goals in the final minutes.

Middlebury held the advantage in shots (29-27), ground balls (18-9), and draw controls (14-12). The Panthers scored seven free-position goals on 14 attempts, both season highs against Gettysburg’s defense.

Nguyen finished with nine saves for Middlebury. Garry connected on four goals, including three of the free-position variety. Herzog netted three goals, and Souther and Colbert each posted two. Herzog added four draw controls and four ground balls, while Fowler picked up five draw controls.

• Women’s lacrosse record: 14-4

• Up next: 5/19 vs. Salisbury @ Montclair (NCAA Semifinals) – 1:00, 5/20 – NCAA Championship – 1:00