Panther women’s lax back in NCAA final four

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team advanced to the NCAA Division III final four for the 19th time in the program’s history by winning a home NCAA regional this past weekend. The Panthers will be seeking the program’s seventh NCAA title and second in Coach Kate Livesay’s three years.
In this past Saturday’s regional semifinal, 11 Panthers scored in an 18-4 victory over Illinois Wesleyan, and on Sunday the 19-2 Panthers scored seven straight second-half goals to erase a 9-4 deficit and defeat York College of Pennsylvania, 11-10.
In this Saturday’s NCAA semifinal in Salem, Va., the Panthers will face The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) at 2:30 p.m. Gettysburg (19-2) will meet Salisbury (21-1) at 11:30 a.m. in the other semifinal. The winners will meet at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Based on comparable scores the four teams appear to be evenly matched. TCNJ (20-2) defeated Middlebury at home, 10-6, on March 27, but lost to NESCAC team Wesleyan, which the Panthers handled easily. The Lions’ other setback came at the hands of Gettysburg.
Middlebury has not faced Salisbury, nor are there any common foes this spring. However, TCNJ defeated Salisbury, 10-1. Nor have the Panthers and Gettysburg met, although both teams have defeated NESCAC team Amherst. Middlebury won at Amherst, 11-9, during the regular season, while Gettysburg defeated Amherst at home this past Sunday, 13-10, in an NCAA regional final.
On this past Saturday’s 18-4 victory vs. Illinois Wesleyan (16-5) the Panthers scored the game’s first 10 goals, led by 11-1 at the half, and stretched their advantage to 15-1 with 20:39 left in the game.
Kirsten Murphy topped the Panthers with three goals and two assists, Jenna McNicholas registered a hat trick, and Claire Russell added to the balanced attack with two goals and an assist. Hollis Perticone controlled six draws, and Erin Nicholas caused three turnovers.
In goal Kate Furber did not face a shot in the opening 15 minutes, while Julia Keith made one save during the rest of the half. Senior Alex Freedman played the final 30 minutes and made one save. Two Illinois Wesleyan goalies combined for 13 saves.
York — which finished at 15-5, a record that included wins over Gettysburg and NESCAC semifinalist and NCAA quarterfinalist Trinity — provided a bigger challenge on Sunday.
The Spartans took a 3-1 lead on one goal by Regan Cook and two from Meghan Fox, with Perticone scoring at 19:26 before Fox’s second goal. Emma McDonagh scored twice for the Panthers, with a tally by Cook sandwiched in between, to make it 4-3 at 7:16. York closed the half with a 3-1 run to make it 7-4 at the break.
The Spartans extended their lead to 9-4 at 23:33 of the second half with goals from Fox and Melissa Meehling, but Middlebury held them scoreless for the next 23:05.
The Panthers began their comeback when Perticone beat two Spartan defenders before scoring to make it 9-5 at 22:59. Just 1:09 later, McDonagh found a cutting Grace Getman to make it 9-6. About six minutes later Georgia Carroll’s spin move after a dish from Nicholas brought the Panthers within 9-7.
Free positions from McDonagh at 14:49 and Perticone at 11:11 tied the score. After Perticone’s goal she won the draw, and fed McDonagh, who scored just 13 seconds later to put her team on top, 10-9.
With 1:33 left in regulation, McDonagh netted a side-arm free-position shot, giving Middlebury some breathing room at 11-9. During that 7-0 run, the Panther defense caused seven Spartan turnovers.
With 28 seconds remaining and a Panther sitting after a carded foul, York’s Devin Hursey found a cutting Hayley McCormick, bringing the Spartans within one 11-10. But Middlebury’s Henley Hall controlled the draw and the Panthers ran out the clock for the win.
McDonagh’s game-high six goals set a new career high, while Perticone netted three to go along with five draw controls. The Panthers caused 13 turnovers, led by three apiece from Alex White and Evie Keating, who each also picked up three ground balls. Susanna Baker finished with two caused turnovers and three ground balls, and Addy Mitchell caused two turnovers.
Furber made with eight saves for Middlebury, while Charlotte Wright made a dozen saves for the Spartans. Fox led York with four goals, while Cook and Meehling each scored twice.  

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