Middlebury

Late Comeback Lifts Field Hockey To NESCAC Title

November 10, 2013

Alyssa DiMaio netted the game winner just 2:15 into overtime, lifting fourth-seeded Middlebury to a thrilling 5-4 come-from-behind victory over third-seeded Bowdoin in the NESCAC Championship game on Gooding Field.

Erasing a two-goal deficit in the final 10:26, the Panthers stormed back, tallying three goals in the game’s final 12-plus minutes. Bridget Instrum  helped spark the comeback, finishing with four goals, while scoring twice over a span of 2:07 late in the second half to give Middlebury new life.

Capturing their second-consecutive NESCAC title (third overall), the Panthers improved to 15-2 overall and earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Dropping to 14-3 on the season, Bowdoin will await to hear about a possible at-large bid when the full 24-team field is announced. This was the fifth championship game meeting between the schools, with the Panthers topping the Polar Bears for the title a year ago.

Wasting no time getting on the board, Bowdoin took the lead less than five minutes after the opening whistle. Receiving the insert off a penalty corner near the top of the circle, Colleen Finnerty ripped a shot toward goal that got blocked down in front. Corralling the loose ball, Rachel Kennedy  hammered home the rebound at 4:56.

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Just 1:20 later, the Polar Bears added to their tally. Carrying up the right side, Katie Riley put a shot on target. Charging toward the net, Emily Simonton  converted another rebound, beating Middlebury goalkeeper Emily Knapp  with a high shot into the left side of the cage.

Pushing forward in the 16th minute, Middlebury created its first solid scoring opportunity. Moving across the face of the crease, Katherine Theiss  forced a diving save from Bowdoin netminder Hannah Gartner . With the keeper unable to control the rebound, Instrum slotted a shot into the left corner to pare the Panther deficit in half. Minutes later, Middlebury nearly netted an equalizer, but Finnerty made a defensive save on junior Catherine Fowler’s shot to the right post.

Keeping the pressure on, the Panthers earned a penalty corner in the 25th minute. Playing the insert to the near side, Elinore O’Brien  executed a beautiful give-and-go with Instrum, who notched her second tally of the day with a low shot into the left corner.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Riley brought it up the right side. Looking toward goal, she played the ball into the circle before reaching the end line. Getting a piece of the hard shot from a tough angle, Knapp knocked the try off course, but could not push it wide enough as the ball trickled over the goal line before a Panther defender could stick it out.

Carrying their momentum into the second half, the Polar Bears went back up two shortly following the intermission. After a couple of quick shots on net, the ball got trapped under Knapp following a scrum on the near post. Converting the ensuing penalty stroke, Finnerty made it 4-2 with 28:00 minutes left in regulation.

Catching Gartner out of position following a penalty corner in the 47th minute, Middlebury nearly cut into the Bowdoin cushion, but Kelsey Mullaney  made a defensive save on a Fowler shot to deny the midfielder a goal for the second time. Minutes later, it was again Mullaney to the rescue, covering for Gartner on another Fowler attempt as the Polar Bear defense recorded its third defensive save of the game.

With just over 10 minutes to go, Middlebury won a penalty corner. Getting the ball on the right side, Instrum moved toward the middle before backhanding a shot inside the near post to pull the Panthers back within one. Just 2:07 later, Instrum struck again, putting away her fourth marker after collecting a loose ball in front.

Still tied at the end of regulation the game headed into a first overtime session. Gaining possession, Middlebury quickly won a penalty corner. Holding the insert on the right side, Fowler fed a pass to DiMaio on the back post, who slapped the game winner into the back of the cage while going to the ground.

Middlebury finished with a 12-10 shot advantage and an 11-3 edge in corners. Knapp made five saves in the win, while Gartner finished with three stops.

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