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NCAA champs: Panther lax rolls to title over Salisbury

ASHLAND, Va. — The Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team this past weekend rolled to the program’s second NCAA Division III title in the past four years and seventh overall, defeating Salisbury, 14-9 in the final on Sunday after dismissing NESCAC rival Wesleyan, 16-8, in a Saturday semifinal.
The Panthers finished at 22-1 with their 22nd straight victory and claimed Middlebury’s 37th NCAA team title since the school and other NESCAC members began competing for NCAA championships in 1994.
FRESHMAN ATTACKER JANE Earley made the NCAA Division III all-tournament team after scoring four goals and controlling nine draws in Middlebury’s 14-9 championship game victory over Salisbury on Sunday. Below, senior Middlebury attacker Emma McDonagh was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after scoring nine goals during the two games in Ashland, Va., this past weekend.
Photos courtesy of Middlebury College
The title is also the second at Middlebury College and third overall as a coach for Kate Livesay, a Middlebury native and former Panther all-American and Middlebury Union High School all-state athlete. Livesay previously coached Trinity to an NCAA title and helped the Panthers win the 2001 and 2002 crowns as a defender. She was assisted this year and last by another Panther all-American and Tiger all-state athlete, Katie Ritter.
Another all-American, Panther senior attacker Emma McDonagh, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, gave Middlebury a second-half spark on Sunday after Salisbury (20-4) erased most of Middlebury’s first-half 8-2 lead.
Goals by Sea Gulls Alexis Sobel, Lydia McNulty and Emma Skoglund cut the score to 9-7 nine minutes into the second half. Middlebury had only scored once, a goal by freshman attacker Jane Earley in the half’s first minute, in the preceding 13 minutes.
Neither team scored in the next six minutes, but then McDonagh scored the biggest goal of the game. She weaved past two defenders into the top of the fan and side-armed a shot past Salisbury goalie Skye Graham with 14:50 to go, and just three seconds left on the shot clock.
The Panthers’ Kirsten Murphy and Salisbury’s Courtney Fegan traded goals over the next four-and-a-half minutes, and then over the next seven minutes McDonagh dodged in for one goal, converted a free position, and then set up Henley Hall with a crisp cross-crease pass, and it was 14-8 with 3:10 left. After a 90-minute weather delay Salisbury tacked on a meaningless goal.
The Panthers took their big first-half lead as Earley scored three times, twice on free position shots, and Grace Getman netted two free positions. Panther goalie Julia Keith also made five of her nine saves in the first half. Graham made three of her five saves in the second half, including big stops during the Panthers’ scoreless stretch.
McDonagh led the Panthers with four goals and an assist, while Earley scored four times and along with senior Casey O’Neill helped Middlebury earn a 14-10 advantage in draw controls by controlling nine draws. Hall also scored twice, and Erin Nicholas, who also won a title as a Panther field hockey player in the fall, also found the net. 
The Panthers defense held a foe to fewer than 10 goals for the 18th straight time; Salisbury had scored 14 vs. Tufts the day before.
Addy Mitchell, the backer in the Middlebury zone, led the Panthers with four ground balls, while defender Alex White had two caused turnovers and two ground balls. Midfielder Sara DiCenso made the all-tournament team, largely for her defensive work, and Earley and Keith joined her and McDonagh on that team. For the Sea Gulls, Fegan, Strobel, Skoglund and McNulty each tallied twice.
PANTHER JUNIOR GOALIE Julia Keith makes one of her nine saves in Sunday’s 14-9 victory over Salisbury in the NCAA Division III title game. Keith was named to the all-tournament team.
Photo courtesy of Middlebury College
In Saturday’s game the Panthers also pulled away late against Wesleyan. The 17-4 Cardinals cut an 11-4 Panther lead to 11-7 with 13:59 to go, but Middlebury closed the game with a 5-1 run.
McDonagh led all players with five goals, while Earley (assist), Jenna McNicholas and Hall each scored twice. Murphy, Getman and Kate Zecca added a goal apiece, and Emily Barnard and DiCenso each contributed two assists. Nicholas controlled a game-high seven draws, while Mitchell’s caused turnover set a program single-season record with 44. Keith made six saves.
Abby Manning led the Cardinals with two goals and an assist, while goalie Allegra Grant finished with six saves.

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