Panthers earn spot as fifth-best in NCAA D-III

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College athletic program finished fifth among 322 college and universities that registered points in the 2015-2016 NCAA Division III Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings. The Panthers, who won the 2011-2012 cup, earned their 13th straight top-10 finish.
Williams won its fourth straight and 19th overall title with 1,098 points, followed by Washington-St. Louis (1,013), Emory (969) and Tufts (882). Middlebury finished with 860 points as four NESCAC schools cracked the top 10.
Schools earn points when their teams reach NCAA tournaments, up to 100 for winning the events, and individual athletes can score points in sports such as swimming and track and field.
In the fall, the Panther field hockey team won its second NCAA championship and its first since 1998, defeating top-ranked Bowdoin in the final, 1-0. Middlebury also earned NCAA wins over No. 5 Franklin & Marshall, No. 6 William Smith and No. 2 The College of New Jersey en route to a school-record 20 wins.
Middlebury also picked up points in the fall when Abigail Nadler and Sebastian Matt led the Panther cross-country teams into the NCAA Championships; both earned All-American honors.
Middlebury probably should have earned enough points in the fall to overtake Tufts for fourth place in the Learfield Cup standings. The Panther men’s soccer team, seeded second in the NESCAC tournament, hosted the event and finished 14-2-2 when Middlebury was upset by Wesleyan, 5-4 on penalty kicks after a 0-0 final, in a semifinal.
But in a baffling decision, the NCAA men’s soccer tournament committee chose Tufts over the Panthers as the third NESCAC representative in the NCAA tournament. Tufts carried a 9-4-3 record into the NCAA event. That mark included a 5-2-3 NESCAC record that was inferior to the Panthers’ 7-2-1 slate, although the Jumbos did win the head-to-head contest. In addition, Tufts was ousted in the NESCAC quarterfinals, while the Panthers reached the semifinal round.
Tufts earned at least 42 Learfield points by winning two NCAA men’s soccer games, while Tufts overall edged Middlebury by 22 points in the cup standings.
Middlebury picked up a number of cup points in the winter, when the women’s hockey team returned to the NCAA final four after capturing its eighth NESCAC championship.
On the hardcourt, the Panther men’s basketball team advanced to the second round of NCAA play after taking home its third NESCAC title with a pair of road upsets.
The Middlebury ski team placed 11th at the NCAA championship, while Isabel Wyer paced the women’s swimmers by earning All-American honors.
Middlebury’s spring season included the school’s second NCAA championship of the academic year, as the women’s lacrosse team won its sixth title with a 9-5 win over Trinity in the final. The Panthers also upset undefeated No. 1 Cortland State, 16-11, in an NCAA semifinal, snapping the defending champion’s 40-game winning streak.
The Panthers set a school record with 22 wins as Coach Kate Perine Livesay, a 2003 alumna, also led the team to its first NESCAC crown since 2007. Senior Bridget Instrum played key roles on both the field hockey and women’s lacrosse teams.
Both tennis teams also turned in outstanding seasons. The men advanced to the NCAA championship match for the sixth time, finishing the season with a 20-3 mark that including a second consecutive NESCAC title. The women’s squad advanced to the semifinal round for the second time in school history and tied a program record for wins at 16-5.
The Panther men’s lacrosse team made its 17th NCAA tournament appearance, finishing one of the nation’s toughest schedules with a 12-7 record.
Both the indoor and outdoor track and field teams also earned the school points, with many All-Americans.
Also earning a NESCAC title this spring was the men’s golf team, which won its eighth league crown and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
   MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SOPHOMORE Audrey Quirk and her field hockey teammates won the NCAA Division III crown last fall and the college used that title and other post-season victories to grab a fifth-place finish in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup.
Independent file photo/Trent Campbell

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