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Women’s lax wins, will host final four

MIDDLEBURY — After holding off No. 8 Amherst this past Saturday, 8-7, the top-seeded Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team will host the NESCAC final four this weekend.
The Panthers (13-3) will take on Colby (13-3) on Saturday at noon, while No. 3 Trinity (13-3) and No. 2 Hamilton (12-4) will meet in the other semifinal at 2:30 p.m. The winners will meet on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the final, with the winner getting the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division III tournament.
All four might have good cases for inclusion regardless: Colby fresh off its recent 9-6 win over the Panthers, is ranked No. 5 in the most recent national poll and is seeded No. 4 in the NESCAC tourney. In the national poll, defending NCAA D-III champion Middlebury is sixth, Hamilton is eighth, and Trinity is 12th. All four finished with 8-2 league marks, with the Panthers earning the top seed via tiebreakers after defeating Hamilton and Trinity on the road.
Vs. Amherst in this past Saturday’s quarterfinal, Middlebury emerged with a 5-4 halftime lead on a late first-half Bea Eppler goal.
Eppler, from Hollis Perticone, scored quickly to open the second half, and a Mary O’Connell free position conversion soon made it 7-4. Amherst responded at 19:18, when Julia Crerend netted a goal.
After almost 14 scoreless minutes, Perticone made a pass from up high to Sara DiCenso, who turned and scored to make it 8-5 with 5:29 to go.
Down the stretch, the Mammoths’ Kate Wyeth made it 8-6 at 3:44. Panther goalie Kate Furber denied Wyeth a minute later, but Crerend cut the lead to one at 1:55. Amherst had one last chance to score, but Furber stopped Kelly Karczewski to seal the win.
Eppler led all scorers with three goals, while O’Connell and DiCenso each added a pair. Perticone finished with three assists and six draw controls. Emma McDonagh dished out two assists to go along with a pair of ground balls. Alex White caused a pair of turnovers for the Panther defense, and Furber finished with a dozen saves.
Crerend, Karczewski and Wyeth each scored twice for Amherst, and Kyra Gardner made 12 saves in goal.
On the previous Wednesday the Panthers nailed down the top seed by defeating visiting Williams, 18-5, in their regular season finale. The Ephs finished at 4-10, 1-9 in league play.
M.G. Gately led the Panther offense with three goals and three assists, while O’Connell and Jenna McNicholas contributed four goals apiece. Gately and Delaina Smith each caused two turnovers, while Perticone snagged a career-best nine draw controls to go along with three ground balls. Furber (five saves) and Alex Freedman (one) split time in goal. Two Eph goalies combined for seven saves. 

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