Panther field hockey falls in NCAA semifinal
LEXINGTON, Va. — The No. 2 Middlebury College field hockey team fell to fourth-ranked The College of New Jersey on Saturday afternoon, 2-0, in one of NCAA Division III semifinals played at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va.
The Panthers concluded their season at 19-2, tying a program record for wins in a single season and earning the NESCAC playoff championship, but falling short in their quest for Middlebury’s second NCAA field hockey title.
TCNJ (22-1) advanced to play Bowdoin in the Sunday’s final. The 19-2 Polar Bears, the defending NCAA champions, defeated Salisbury, 2-1, in Saturday’s other semifinal. TCNJ defeated Bowdoin, 2-0, to earn the NCAA crown.
Saturday’s game between Middlebury and TCNJ marked the first time the two teams had met since the 2011 national final, also won by TCNJ. The Panthers defeated TCNJ in a 2007 semifinal.
In the first half, TCNJ took the early lead on a goal by Lindsey Hatch, her 33rd of the season, in the ninth minute. The Lions’ constant defensive pressure on the Panthers forced a failed clearance in the Middlebury end that led to a penalty corner, TCNJ’s first of the game. Hatch inserted and then went to the left post to tap the ball in following a scramble in front of the goal.
With scoring chances few and far between in the opening half, Middlebury induced a penalty corner in the 32nd minute, but Anna Kenyon’s shot was saved by Lion goalie Kelly Schlupp. With just two minutes left before halftime, the Lions drew a penalty corner and Victoria Martin blasted a shot from the right that just went wide.
TCNJ made it 2-0 on another penalty corner at 38:47 of the second half. The insert went to Lexi Smith, who pushed it forward to Alicia Wagner. Wagner laced a shot home from the left eight yards out.
In the 58th minute, Middlebury’s Cat Fowler had a great chance on a penalty corner. Alyssa DiMaio inserted the ball to Bridget Instrum, who sent a pass to the right to Fowler. But Schlupp padded away Fowler’s scoring attempt from eight yards out.
Five minutes later in the 63rd minute, Jaclyn Douglas nearly gave TCNJ a three-goal advantage when she raced into the circle. Middlebury goalie Emily Knapp came out to cut down the angle, and Douglas’ shot went just wide left as another Lion missed a tap-in.
With just over three minutes to go, Middlebury had a couple of scoring chances with back-to-back penalty corners. The Panthers were able to get shots off both times, but neither found the cage as they were shut out for the first time this season.
Both teams were awarded five penalty corners, while Middlebury held a 9-8 advantage in shots. Knapp (19-2) finished with two saves for the Panthers, while Schlupp (22-1) was credited with five stops.
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