Women's Lacrosse In Search Of Eighth NESCAC Title

May 2, 2013

Middlebury will look for its eighth NESCAC Championship when they travel to Trinity for the 2013 NESCAC Championship at Sheppard Field for the fourth consecutive year. The action begins on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. with the top-seeded Bantams facing off with sixth-seeded Hamilton. Following the first game, second-seeded Middlebury and fourth-seeded Colby will meet for a spot in the championship game on Sunday, May 5 at 12:00 p.m.

Number one-seeded Trinity (15-0, 10-0 NESCAC) stayed unbeaten with a 12-8 quarterfinal win over Tufts. The Bantams are currently riding a 23-game win streak that dates back to last season, when Trinity claimed the school’s first ever NCAA title. The Bantams have won the NESCAC championship the past two seasons. Trinity will have a familiar opponent awaiting them in the semifinals in Hamilton, a team they needed overtime to defeat in last years semifinal contest. The Bantams also own one championship win over each Middlebury and Colby, recording those victories in the past two title games. Trinity had little trouble navigating their way through this year’s schedule, winning nine of their games by at least seven goals. Their closest call game in a 10-9 win over Middlebury on April 13, when the Panthers scored four straight goals in a 10-minute span to tie the contest with just over five minutes to go. Trinity junior Shea Kusiak (Longmeadow, Mass.) tallied the game-winner with 1:51 left to help keep the Bantams undefeated.

Trinity boasts the top defense and one of the top offenses in the NESCAC. The Bantams have a goals against average of 5.20 and have caused 168 turnovers, good for second in the conference, while they have the second-highest offense with 13.20 goals per game. Leading the way for Trinity on the offensive end is senior Kaitlin Hildebrand (Berwyn, Pa.), who is tied for fifth in the NESCAC with 46 points on 30 goals and 16 assists. Senior Megan Leonhard chips in on both ends of the field, ranking in the top five in both draw controls (47) and caused turnovers (26). Senior Olivia Whitney (Danvers, Mass.) and first year Emily Mooney (New York, N.Y.) have split time in between the pips this year. Whitney (7-0) has posted a goals against average of 5.15, while Mooney’s (4-0) goals against average sits at 4.42.

For the second consecutive year, sixth-seeded Hamilton (9-7 overall, 4-6 NESCAC) advanced to the NESCAC semifinals with an upset win, this time eliminating Bowdoin by the slimmest of margins, 10-9. The Continentals have made it to the semifinals in each of the last two seasons and will face Trinity once again, having suffered a 9-8 overtime loss to the Bantams in last year’s tournament. After holding an 8-4 lead six minutes into the second half, the Bantams scored the final five goals, including the game-winner with 34 seconds left in the extra session. After opening week wins over Tufts and Wesleyan and non-conference William Smith, the Continentals lost five of their next six games to fall to 4-6. One of those losses was to a 10-9 overtime loss to Bowdoin, the team they just beat for a spot in the semifinals. Since then, Hamilton has won five of seven to grab a spot in the tournament and semifinals once again. On April 20, the Continentals had an 8-4 setback to top-seeded Trinity, however the Continental defense proved tougher than expected, as the eight goals is tied for the fewest the Bantams have scored all season.

Advancing to the  NESCAC title game will be a tall order for the Continentals, having to face two of the top-three defenses in the conference. Trinity owns the lowest goals against average, while Colby and Middlebury are second and third, respectively. If Hamilton wants to continue on to the title game, they will have to get big contributions from senior Rachel Friedman (Fairfield, Conn.) and junior Katie D’Antonio (Garden City, N.Y.), two of the top point scorers in the NESCAC. D’Antonio sits fourth in the conference with 47 points (34 goals, 13 assists), and Friedman is right behind her with 46 points (29 points, 17 assists). Starting netminder Dewi Caswell (Pennington N.J.) owns an 8.79 goals against average and a .488 save percentage with a 6-2 record this season.

Returning to the semifinals for the second year in a row, Middlebury (14-1, 9-1) will be looking for their first conference crown since winning seven consecutive from 2001 to 2007. During that stretch, Middlebury won three NCAA titles. The Panthers rolled through their conference slate this year, suffering their only loss in the aforementioned game against Trinity. Middlebury has won 10 games overall by at least seven goals, with seven of those wins coming in conference play. The Panthers own a 17-5 record in the NESCAC Championship, more wins than any other program. Middlebury made it back to the championship game last year after missing out on the previous three, coming up just short of their eighth title, losing 11-10 to Trinity in the finale. Middlebury enters the weekend with the highest-scoring offense in the conference and one of the top defenses as well, out-scoring their opponents by an average of 8.33 goals per game. The Panther offense averages 15.07 goals per game, while the defense allows 6.74 goals per game, good for third in the NESCAC. Senior Ellen Halle (Upperco, Md.) has been a shining star for Middlebury, leading the conference in points (76), goals (47) and assists (29). Last year’s leading scorer, senior Margaret Souther (Scarsdale, N.Y.) is another force to be reckoned with, sitting third in the conference with 49 points from 31 goals and 18 assists. Junior goalkeeper Alyssa Palomba (Shrewsbury, Mass.) has made a significant impact in her first year as the starting goalie, piling up 14 wins with a goals against average of 6.49 and .441 save percentage.

Meeting for a NESCAC-record eighth time in championship play will be Middlebury and their opponent Colby (12-3, 7-3 NESCAC). Prior to being eliminated in last year’s quarterfinal by Hamilton, the Mules had made it to five consecutive championship games from 2007 to 2011, winning the title twice in 2008 and 2009, to end the Panthers’ run of seven straight titles. In their first four match-ups, Middlebury won three times in the semifinals, and most recently, the title in 2008. Since then however, Colby has won all three gatherings, with two semifinal wins and one in the quarterfinals. The Mules opened their season with eight wins before an 8-4 setback to Trinity on April 7. The eight goals are tied for the least amount the Bantams have scored all season. Following the loss, Colby exchanged wins and losses over the next four games, with the losses being a triple-overtime defeat against Bowdoin and a 14-6 loss to semifinal opponent Middlebury. Colby is still looking to get back on track, winning their last two games, and hope that a semifinal win over Middlebury will give them the momentum they need to win their first title since 2009.

Colby’s two-top scorers will have to be on their game if they want to lead the Mules past Middlebury’s defense. Junior Katharine Eddy (Cheshire, Conn.) ranks second in the league with 27 assists and fifth with 46 points, adding 19 goals. Junior Lindsey McKenna (Fairfield, Conn.) leads the team and is third in the NESCAC with 40 goals and has passed out four assists for a total of 44 points, which is tied for ninth in the conference. The Mules will hope to slow down the high-powered Middlebury offense, with one of the top defense units and goalies in the league. Junior Michelle Burt (Woodbridge, Conn.) is second in the conference with a .548 save percentage and has a 7.14 goals against average, helping the Mules to the second lowest teams goals against average in the NESCAC.

Quarterfinals - Saturday, April 27
#1 Trinity def. #8 Tufts, 12-8
#2 Middlebury def. #7 Bates, 16-7
#6 Hamilton def. #3 Bowdoin, 10-9
#4 Colby def. #5 Amherst, 11-3

Semifinals - Saturday, May 4 - hosted by Trinity
#6 Hamilton at #1 Trinity - 12:00 pm
#4 Colby vs. #2 Middlebury - 2:30 pm

Championship - Sunday, May 5 - hosted by Trinity
Semifinal Winners - 12:00 pm

--courtesy NESCAC--