Panther field hockey falls in regional final, 3-2

MIDDLEBURY — Visiting Skidmore on Sunday eliminated the host Middlebury College field hockey team from the NCAA Division III tournament, 3-2, in a regional final. The loss dropped the No. 2 Panthers to 16-3 and marked the second-straight season Middlebury lost a regional final on home turf.
The No. 7 Thoroughbreds improved to 19-3 and advanced to this weekend’s final four in Virginia, where they will face Salisbury. Bowdoin College and Christopher Newport University of Newport News, Va., also reached the semifinal round with wins on Sunday.
Middlebury took a 1-0 lead early with a goal on a penalty corner. Bridget Instrum scored her 16th after being set up by Catherine Fowler’s reverse sweep pass. Skidmore answered at 4:50 shortly after a penalty corner. Kelly Blackhurst sent a waist-level pass to the middle that Melanie Webb knocked out of the air and into the back of the cage.
Skidmore took a 2-1 lead at 16:59 with a penalty corner tally from Jenn Hanks. Krista Lamoreaux inserted the ball to Hanks at the top of the circle, and she scored from there.
Middlebury threatened to tie the game several times throughout the remainder of the half, but Skidmore goalie Haley McDougall (seven saves) kept the Panthers off the board. The Panthers’ best chance to score came in half’s final minute. As they applied heavy pressure, McDougall denied Anna Kenyon’s shot from the stroke line with a glove save.
The Panthers earned three penalty corners in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but were unable to tie the game. Skidmore increased its lead at 57:13 with another tally on a penalty corner. This time Lamoreaux fed Blackhurst in the middle for her 32nd goal of the season.
Needing a pair of goals to tie the game, the Panthers sent netminder Emily Knapp (two saves) to the bench in favor of an extra attacker with 6:03 left to play. 
The Panthers made it a 3-2 game with 34 seconds remaining with a penalty corner tally from Kenyon. Fowler made a feed from the left side to Kenyon, who rapped it home into the far side.
Middlebury dispossessed the Thoroughbreds and moved down the field after the restart, and earned a penalty corner for a five-yard violation as time expired.
The Panthers nearly tied the game after a flurry and scramble in the crease, but the whistle was blown before the ball went into the cage, and the official awarded the team a second penalty corner. Fowler’s shot on that corner sailed just wide right and the game ended.
Middlebury held a 13-7 shots advantage in the game, while each team took eight penalty corners.
On Saturday, both teams earned lopsided wins to reach Sunday’s final. Skidmore set a tournament record with 11 goals in an 11-1 win over Keene State, while the Panthers blanked Utica (17-5), 8-0.
In that game, Middlebury scored five goals in a 5:43 span early in the first half. Instrum scored the first of her three goals at 4:19, beating a pair of defenders on her way to the game’s opening goal. Kenyon made it a 2-0 game on a penalty corner, tipping in a pass from Fowler. Less than a minute later, a crossing pass from Instrum tipped off a Utica defender and in.
Kenyon struck again at 10:02. Alyssa DiMaio sent in a long pass from outside the circle, and Kenyon was just able to get a stick on the ball to deflect it in. The final goal of the run came from DiMaio, as she converted a feed from Katherine Theiss at the left post. The Panthers took the 5-0 advantage into the intermission.
Fowler scored 10:08 into the second half from the stroke line, converting a cross from Elinore O’Brien for her team-leading 18th of the year. Instrum earned her hat trick at 47:58, and Pam Schulman scored the game’s final goal with 15:09 remaining.
At 51:13, Knapp denied a penalty stroke by Louise Steele-Norton with a diving save to her left. The Pioneers had one more good look in the final minute, but Knapp (four saves) made a diving stick stop on an attempt from Jessica Franklin to keep the shutout intact.
Middlebury finished with a 23-4 shots advantage in the Saturday game, with Knapp earning her seventh shutout of the season. Kells Casey ended the day with nine stops in goal for the Pioneers.
CORRECTION: The Independent’s Nov. 14 article about local high school field hockey players on college teams participating in the NCAA Division III tournament omitted Middlebury College’s Chrissy Ritter, a Middlebury Union High School grad who has a goal and two assists for the Panthers this season.

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