Women’s lax heading to NCAA final four

Middlebury College women's lax team members and coaches were all smiles Sunday after defeating Colby and earning a spot in the NCAA Final Four. Photo by Will Costello

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team cruised through an NCAA Division III regional on its home turf this past weekend and will compete for a national title this weekend at a final four in Salem, Va.

The 20-1 Panthers defeated NESCAC rival Colby, 12-2, in this past Sunday’s regional final, the day after they dismissed the University of Chicago, 22-4, in the regional semifinal.

The Panthers will take on Gettysburg (19-3) in one Saturday semifinal at noon in Salem while NESCAC playoff champion and 2021 NCAA runner-up Tufts (18-3) squares off vs. The College of New Jersey (18-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday’s winners will meet at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday for the title.

Middlebury did not face Gettysburg this spring, although the Bullets lost to both teams on the other side of the bracket by about a half-dozen goals during the regular season.

However, the Panthers did meet both Tufts and TCNJ. Middlebury split two games with the Jumbos, winning at Tufts in the regular season, 14-7, but losing on home turf in the NESCAC playoff final, 9-8. The Panthers won at TCNJ on March 24, 13-9.

Against Colby (16-4) on this past Sunday, the Panthers led by 2-1 after one period, but outscored the Mules by 4-0 in each of the second and third periods to take control of the game.

Hope Shue led the attack with four goals, while Jane Earley and Erin Nicholas each scored twice; Early also controlled five draws. Niki Mormile, Kelcey Dion, Susan Rowley and Anna Spehr added a goal apiece, and goalie Annie Enrietto, who missed the loss vs. Tufts with an injury, stopped 11 shots.

Cami McDonald scored the early goal for Colby, and Grace Toner added the fourth quarter score. Colby goalie Emily Podgorni made seven.

On Saturday the Panthers took a 14-1 halftime lead on the way to their 22-4 victory over Chicago (18-2).

Earley led the attack with five goals, in the process moving into first on Middlebury’s single-season list with 70. Lily Riseberg (three goals, three assists) and Shue (four goals) were also major offensive contributors, and Nicholas controlled five draws. Enrietto (five saves in three quarters) and Gina Driscoll (three saves in the final period) shared time in goal.

Chicago goalie Rachel Keefe made 10 saves, and Lizzie Huesman had a goal and an assist.

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