Panther women’s lax shuts down Bowdoin

MIDDLEBURY — Anyone wondering what would happen when a women’s lacrosse team averaging more than 18 goals a game meets one allowing fewer than three goals a game got one answer on Saturday at Middlebury College.
Not too well.
The Middlebury women swatted away a high-powered Bowdoin attack, allowing only 10 shots on goal and forcing 23 turnovers in a 14-4 victory that upped the Panthers’ record to 6-0, 4-0 NESCAC. When the new poll is released Monday they will retain their No. 2 ranking in NCAA Division III behind Gettysburg, which is also 6-0 and leaving scorched earth in its wake.
Bowdoin, which entered ranked No. 17 and had scored at least 10 goals in each of its previous seven games, dropped to 4-2 and 2-2 NESCAC.
The visiting Polar Bears had no answers for the Panthers, especially in a first half in which Middlebury took a 10-2 lead.
In the first 30 minutes Middlebury forced 11 turnovers and allowed only five shots, four on goal. Bowdoin could clear its own end only six times in 11 tries. The Panthers launched 29 shots, 19 on goal; won nine of 12 draws; and scooped 18 of 26 ground balls.
And nine Panthers took turns scoring those 10 goals, while freshman Kristen Murphy chipped in four of her game-high five assists.
Coach Kate Livesay would have liked to see a little better offensive focus in the second half, but she had no complaint about the first-half attack; the game-long efforts of low defenders Evie Keating, Addy Mitchell and Alex White; and her attackers and midfielders’ work throughout to harass the Polar Bears.
“Our defense really holds it down, and when our offense comes out scoring the way it did today it puts a lot of pressure on the other team’s offense, and that creates a lot of opportunities for our defense to shine,” Livesay said.
Livesay said the Panthers were looking forward to facing the Bowdoin attack, and at the same time she was happy to see the Panther offense play so well.
“We were really curious to see how that matchup would be with our defense. So it was really nice to see our defense step up and limit those goal-scoring opportunities,” she said. “And our offense at the other end was really super aggressive to cage, really creating opportunities.”
With middies Hollis Perticone and Casey O’Neill doing good work, the Panthers controlled the early draws to give the offense the ball. Attacker Emma McDonagh struck first by whipping a free position home 1:27 into the game.
A little more than a minute later Murphy, to the left of goal, fed attacker Emily Barnard, and she picked the right side to make it 2-0. At 26:09 Perticone bolted in to make it 3-0.
Polar Bear goalie Kayli Weiss (11 saves) kept the Panthers at bay for a few minutes. Bowdoin made it into Middlebury territory once, but Mitchell, a freshman, stole the ball cleanly with a lethal stick check for the first of her six caused turnovers. At 21:26 Murphy hit cutting middie Sara DiCenso, and it was 4-0.
The Panthers now have 43 assists on 73 goals, and Murphy has a team-high 13. Livesay said the passing has added versatility to the Middlebury attack, which features several players capable of making individual moves.  
“They’re really setting a standard and making it fun for people to cut. You cut with a lot of intention when you know you’re going to get the ball if you’re open,” she said.
At 18:04 O’Neill nailed a free position, and a minute later Perticone sliced through the defense and finished after taking a DiCenso feed from behind the net.
At 16:38 Bowdoin standout Katherine Miller beat Panther goalie Julia Keith (six saves) with a low shot, but the Panthers answered 1:11 later with attacker Grace Getman’s strong move through the fan. At 11:45 attacker Georgia Carroll buried a Murphy behind-the-net feed to make it 8-1.
Bowdoin’s Miller set up Eliza Denious at 9:27 to make it 8-2, but the Panthers took their eight-goal lead at the half on strikes by attackers Jenna McNicholas, from Murphy, and Kate Zecca, a successful free position.
Although the Panther offense wasn’t to Livesay’s liking in the second half, the defensive effort remained. Livesay said the Panthers’ depth of talent allows them to play hard for 60 minutes.
“In the midfield we’re able to run a lot of people in and out,” she said. “We’re able to push the pace in transition and on the defensive end, and really keep a nice pace on offense.”
Middlebury added goals from middie Erin Nicholas; O’Neill, from Murphy; McDonagh; and White, who enjoyed converting a free position in the final minute after a run up from the back. Denious and Miller tacked on scores for the Polar Bears.
Perticone controlled seven draws for Middlebury, while Keating played a key role in clearing the ball for the Panthers.
Livesay said she is optimistic about her team heading into a week in which the Panthers will head south for two games, one against No. 6 The College of New Jersey, before coming back north to visit NESCAC’s other undefeated team, Amherst, this Saturday.
“This was a big test. Last weekend was a big test. This is a packed week for us with College of New Jersey and Montclair and Amherst. So we’re ready to be tested,” she said. “I do think we’re really a talented team.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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