Middlebury College field hockey is headed back to NCAA Final Four

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College field hockey team is going back to the NCAA Division III final four this weekend, where the Panthers will try to win their second straight national title and third in the past four years.
The 19-1 Panthers on Sunday won an NCAA Regional final on their home turf, 5-1 over The College of New Jersey (16-5), to earn what is the program’s fourth final four berth in the past five years.
No. 2 Middlebury will play undefeated and third-ranked Rowan on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, Pennsylvania.
MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SENIOR Grace Jennings slips the ball around TCNJ goalie Maddie Beaumont during Sunday’s NCAA Division III Regional field hockey final. Jennings scored in the host Panthers’ 5-1 win, but a defender stopped her bid on this play. Middlebury advanced to the tournament’s final four this coming weekend and will take aim at a second consecutive NCAA crown.
Photo by Steve James
No. 4 Tufts  (18-2, with both losses to the Panthers in NESCAC play) and No. 9 Johns Hopkins (19-2) will meet at 11 a.m. on Saturday in the other semifinal, and the winners will square off on Sunday at noon. Johns Hopkins surprised No. 1 Messiah on Sunday.
TCNJ had upset Vassar on Saturday on Middlebury’s Kohn Field, but on Sunday the Panthers struck three times in the opening 10 minutes to take charge. Emma Johns made it 1-0 2:27 into the contest on a penalty corner. Marissa Baker fed Emma Johns on the left wing with a short pass, and Johns fired a shot past TCNJ keeper Maddie Beaumont.
Just over five minutes later Erin Nicholas weaved through the Lion defense and flipped a shot into the cage for her team-leading 15th goal of the season. Middlebury made it 3-0 at 26:39 when Grace Jennings burst through the defense on another solo run; that was her 14th score of the fall.  
TCNJ’s Jackie Schwartz made a strong defensive save on Jennings with 13:39 left in the half to keep the difference at three, and Lion Tori Hannah laced a shot off the right post in the half’s final minute on a penalty corner.  
In the second half Meg Fearey made it 4-0 by tapping in a pass from Baker. Baker made it 5-0 at 18:26 by blasting a shot from the top of the arc on a penalty corner. Isabel Chandler, who inserted the ball, and Jennings who set up the shot, both earned assists.
MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SENIOR Grace Jennings celebrates the Panthers’ third goal against TCNJ on Sunday.
Photo by Steve James
The Lions got on the board with 9:53 to play on Sidney Padilla’s hard shot from the top of the arc.
Middlebury goalie Megan Collins posted a pair of saves, while Beaumont stopped eight shots for the Lions.
The Panthers controlled play and earned advantages of  20-5 in shots and 11-3 in penalty corners. The win was their 22nd straight at home.

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