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Panther women’s lax is on to Final Four; Middlebury wins Regional

MIDDLEBURY — The host Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team used a 6-0 first-half run in Sunday’s NCAA Division III regional final vs. Gettysburg to spark a 13-9 victory that sent the Panthers to the NCAA Division III Final Four.
The 20-1 Panthers will face No. 1 Cortland State (20-0) on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia in one semifinal. Franklin & Marshall (20-2) will meet Trinity College (18-3) in the other semifinal, and the winners will play on Sunday, May 29.
Gettysburg took a 4-2 lead early on Sunday at Middlebury, but the Panthers answered with their 6-0 run. It started at 12:35 when senior midfielder, captain and former Middlebury Union High School standout Chrissy Ritter (a goal and two assists) netted a cross-crease feed from Bridget Instrum (four goals) at 12:35.
Next middie Hollis Perticone converted a feed from attacker Mary O’Connell. At 7:18, attacker Alli Sciarretta netted a helper from middie Emma McDonagh.
Goalie and Cornwall resident Katie Mandigo (eight saves, while two Bullet goalies combined for six) then made a tough kick stop on Bullet attacker Abby Baigelman, and at 4:46 Instrum whipped home a free position to make it 6-4. Mandigo denied Baigelman again, and at 2:33 O’Connell set up Megan Griffin (three goals, two assists) out front.
To that point, Gettysburg had won nine of 11 draws, but Coach Kate Livesay then gave freshman Henley Hall the job, and Middlebury won eight of the final 13. Hall won the next draw, and at 2:00 middie Laurel Pascal quick-sticked home a pass from Griffin, and it was 8-4, Panthers.
Baigelman scored before the half to make it 8-5, but momentum had shifted. Starting at 24:56 of the second half, the Panthers scored three goals in 3:48 to make it 11-5. Ritter set up the first with a long sprint and a dish to Griffin, Instrum nailed a free position at 23:41, and Griffin assisted another Pascal quick-stick strike at 21:08.
Gettysburg made a run, with three goals between 16:23 and 13:28, two by Kate Willis, and Livesay called time. Ritter explained the message.
“We were just saying there was 13 minutes left to play on Peter Kohn Field,” Ritter said. “We just took it as a sentimental moment to say give it all we have, give it all the heart we have, and we just did it.”
Instrum soon restored order by dodging past a couple defenders to make it 12-8 at 11:47. The Panthers possessed most of the rest of the way and the defense (Evie Keating, Delaina Smith and Jessie Yorke) and Mandigo continued to play well, although Willis netted a free position to make it 12-9 at 7:31. Sciarretta answered at 5:15 with an assist from Griffin, and soon the Panthers were running out the clock and celebrating.
In Saturday’s Regional semifinal the Panthers built an 11-3 halftime lead in a 12-9 victory over No. 18 St. John Fisher (17-4). The Panthers went on a 9-1 run after SJF tied the game at 2-2 early on.
On Saturday, Instrum and Sciarretta led the Panthers with three goals apiece, and Griffin and O’Connell added two each. Mandigo made nine saves, including a big stop late in the second half to seal the victory. Two SJF goalies combined for eight saves.
That game followed a trend. In the Panthers’ NESCAC final win vs. Trinity and their first-round NCAA win over Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham, they bolted to big leads and then played less effectively in the second half.
Livesay was happier with the entire 60 minutes on Sunday.
“I thought we played well. I thought we put together a complete game,” she said. “We were as sharp and sort of dialed in as we have been this year. When momentum swung away from us we worked hard to get it back, and that’s been a challenge for us the last couple of games.”
For Ritter and Mandigo, also a Panther ice hockey player, Sunday marked their final home games in Middlebury uniforms.
“It’s been awesome for me, especially growing up watching all the girls on the lacrosse team when I was little, and wanting to be them,” Ritter said. “It’s been such a treat for me to play on this team, and to have the last game on the field be a win. It’s been an amazing experience.”   MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SENIOR Bridget Instrum turns toward the St. John Fisher goal during Saturday’s NCAA regional semifinal. Instrum scored three goals in the Panther win.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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