Middlebury field hockey earns trip to NCAA final four
GENEVA, N.Y. — The Middlebury College field hockey team won an NCAA Division III Regional at William Smith College this past weekend to advance to the tournament’s final four this weekend in Lexington, Va.
The 18-2 Panthers, ranked No. 3 in NCAA D-III, will meet second-ranked The College of New Jersey on Saturday in a national semifinal at 2 p.m. on the campus of Washington & Lee. Defending champion TCNJ (20-1) eliminated the Panthers in a semifinal in 2014. The other semifinal features top-ranked Bowdoin (20-0) and No. 4 Ursinus (19-3) playing at 11 a.m.
The winners will meet for the title at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Panthers have played in four NCAA finals since winning the program’s only NCAA title in 1998 and are making their seventh final four appearance and their 13th straight NCAA tournament appearance.
On this past Sunday, the Panthers defeated host No. 6 William Smith, 3-0, to reach the final four. William Smith finished 18-3.
The Panthers started the game by earning four penalty corners in the opening 10 minutes of play, but couldn’t find the back of the cage. In the 12th minute, the Herons’ Hannah Wood ripped a shot from the right side eight feet away, but Middlebury goalie Emily Miller kicked the shot away.
At 13:11, the Panthers got on the board on their fifth penalty corner on a Pam Schulman goal. After the insertion, Annie Leonard dribbled toward the middle and sent the ball to Schulman at the left side of the cage, where tapped it home for her 17th goal this season.
The same two Middlebury players teamed up to score at 28:54 on the Panthers’ ninth penalty corner. Schulman dribbled inside the circle, and Leonard redirected her pass home off a Heron defender. The Panthers took that two-goal advantage into halftime break with advantages of 10-2 in shots and 10-0 in penalty corners.
In the second half, William Smith had a great scoring chance in the 43rd minute on a penalty corner, but Miller kicked away Alessandra Patrizio’s bid.
With Heron goalie Biz Chirco pulled for an extra attacker, Leonard tacked on Middlebury’s third goal at 66:54, dribbling in from 20 yards out for her 23rd goal of the fall, with Anna Kenyon assisting.
Middlebury ended with advantages of 17-5 in shots and 13-7 in penalty corners. Miller made four saves for her seventh shutout this season, while Chirco made nine stops for the Herons.
On Saturday, the Panthers posted a 2-0 victory over fifth-ranked Franklin & Marshall. After Panther defender Jillian Green made an early defensive save, Middlebury broke through at 11:46. After Bridget Instrum collected a loose ball on the right just inside the circle, dribbling toward the center, and shot toward the cage, Leonard redirected it home.
Miller kicked away Franklin & Marshall’s lone shot of the opening half in the 24th minute, and it was 1-0 at the half.
Middlebury made it 2-0 at 38:56 when Grace Jennings worked her way in from the left side of the field and sent a shot that went into the cage off a Diplomat defender.
Middlebury held advantages of 7-3 in both shots and penalty corners. Miller made two saves, while Ilianna Santangelo was credited with three stops for the Diplomats.