Middlebury field hockey opens with pair of wins

MIDDLEBURY — The new-look Middlebury College field hockey team got off to a 2-0 start with wins on Sunday and Monday, and Coach Katharine DeLorenzo saw signs the Panthers could answer their biggest question entering the 2015 season.

Middlebury — ranked No. 4 in the early NCAA Division III poll — returns its entire starting defense and seven of its top 10 scorers, but graduated most of its starting midfield, including two all-Americans, from the team that won the NESCAC tournament for the third straight time and reached the NCAA semifinal round.

But after Sunday’s opening 2-0 win over NESCAC rival Connecticut, DeLorenzo said she had already seen enough to believe her midfield would be solid.

“We’ve got plenty of good players,” she said.

Junior Lauren Berestecky, who scored eight times a year ago, returns there, and senior Anna Kenyon (20 goals and 14 assists in her career) has moved back from forward to midfield to start. Sophomore Audrey Quirk has started both games and picked up an assist in the Panthers’ 5-1 win at Smith on Monday.

DeLorenzo is still juggling the fourth spot and her subs. Sophomore Carson Peacock started on Sunday, and sophomore Caroline Knapp at Smith on Monday. Sophomore Annie Leonard, who converted Quirk’s assist on Monday, was playing her first game after returning from injury and saw regular action off the bench.

Freshmen Grace Jennings and Fiona Sullivan came in during both games, and Jennings notched her first career goal vs. Smith.

The midfield goals on Monday may have started to address one of the concerns that DeLorenzo brought up after Sunday’s win: She is confident in her defense and front line, but getting that extra production from the midfield could make all the difference.

“One of the things that is still missing for us is that finishing from the midfield, that midfielder knowing when a gap is really open, and when to drill it and get inside the 25,” she said.

Certainly, the return on defense of senior captains Jillian Green and Shannon Hutteman and junior Lily Taub, each of whom started all 21 games in 2014, inspires confidence in DeLorenzo. On Sunday, Connecticut managed just one shot on goal, and on Monday, Smith put just two shots on goal in the first half as the Panthers bolted to a 5-0 lead.

“I thought our back line was practically flawless today,” DeLorenzo said on Sunday. “I really was very impressed with them.”

They are playing in front of a new goalie. So far junior Emily Miller has earned the starts over Champlain Valley Union High School’s Evangeline Dunphy, a sophomore.

On the attack, senior Bridget Instrum (27 goals and 11 assists in 32 career games) and junior Pam Schulman (11 goals, seven assists a year ago) return. DeLorenzo started sophomore Lauren Schweppe up front on Sunday and freshman Molly Freeman on Monday, and freshman Susanna Baker substituted in both games.

Through two games, Instrum and Schulman have combined for four goals and four assists, and Hutteman has added a Panther score, blasting home a shot from the top of the circle for the Panthers’ second goal vs. Connecticut.

That was the only goal the Panthers scored directly off a penalty corner on 19 attempts on Sunday, however, although a Schulman penalty stroke came after a Camel foul during a corner.

The Panthers did score three goals on corners on Monday, but DeLorenzo said on Sunday she wants to see her team develop more of a sniping mentality.

“We’re going to have to score goals, which is where we struggled mightily today,” she said. “I thought we ran the corners well, but as I told them at halftime, all the penalty corners are going to do for you are show you the mouth of the goal from about eight feet away. The shooter is going to have to score the ball. We don’t do that well yet.”

In Sunday’s game vs. Connecticut (1-2), the Panthers started slowly, but took virtually complete control after about 15 minutes. They earned 19 penalty corners, 13 in the first half, to the Camels’ two, and outshot them, 14-2.

But they failed to score on those first-half corners, with Camel goalie Ryley van der Velde making most of her six saves, several point blank. Camel defenders also chipped in with a pair of saves.

Six minutes into the second half, Miller had to make her only save, and it preserved the scoreless tie. On a Camel corner, the ball was worked to Heidi Halsted, who whipped a waist-high shot toward the right side. Miller lunged to block it, and the Panthers cleared from the scramble.

Instrum, Quirk, Freeman, Schulman and Kenyon kept attacking the circle with speed, however, and the pressure paid off about two minutes later, when Schulman ripped home her penalty stroke into the right side. Hutteman added the pad goal at 10:41, with Kenyon inserting on a corner to Instrum to set up Hutteman’s rocket.

WIN OVER SMITH

On Monday vs. Smith (1-2), the Panthers took charge with two early goals on corners. Pam Schulman scored at 5:51 from Instrum, and at 8:48, Instrum shot from the top of the circle and Schulman deflected it home.

In the 22nd minute, Leonard scored on a give-and-go with Quirk. About a minute later, Jennings converted a breakaway past Smith goalkeeper Nora Demick, who combined with Cameo Tietje for eight saves.

At 30:47, Instrum capped the Panther scoring with a reverse sweep from the penalty dot, with a helper from Schulman.

Following halftime, Smith’s Julia Hamilton tallied at 38:20. Miller finished with four saves, and Dunphy stopped the only two shots she saw in the final minutes.

Almost as much as the win, DeLorenzo said on Sunday she valued the chance to see many of her players respond to college game circumstances and pressure for the first time.

“We used a lot of different people,” she said. “People have to have game minutes for coaches to know what they’re capable of doing and what they like to do and what they’re not so inclined to do. And I thought we learned a lot more about our players today.”

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at an

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