Sports

Women’s lacrosse starts rolling again

PANTHER SENIOR ATTACKER Jane Earley leaves a Conn College player in her wake during the Middlebury lax team’s 19-3 victory on Saturday. Earley paced the Panthers with four goals. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — In 2019 and 2022 the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse program won NESCAC and NCAA Division III titles. 

With COVID-19 reigning the two years between, maybe it’s not accurate to say Coach Kate Livesay’s 2023 group is shooting for a three-peat. But based on early returns (the team’s record is 3-0) the official ledger keepers might have to figure out what to call it when the Panthers wrap up this season.

A game at also undefeated Trinity this coming Saturday might reveal more about this year’s Middlebury team.

Last week the Panthers picked up a pair of NESCAC wins, bolting to an early lead against a top-20 Bowdoin team after a long midweek bus ride and settling for a 15-9 road victory. And on Saturday, they rolled over visiting Connecticut College, 19-3, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score — it was 10-1 after 15 minutes.

PANTHER SOPHOMORE ATTACKER Kelcey Dion hits the turf to get this successful shot off in the Panther lacrosse team’s big win over visiting Conn College on Saturday. Dion finished with a hat trick.
Independent photo/Steve James

One of Livesay’s only headaches so far has been finding playing time for everyone.

“We feel good. We really love this team. It’s probably one of the deepest teams that we’ve had, which has been fun,” she said. 

Livesay acknowledged this could be the most athletic team she’s coached since taking over in 2016 (her record is now 108-11). 

“It’s a fast team. I think a few years ago we had a really great team, a skilled team, but we were missing some speed,” she said. “This team is just super athletic.”

That speed, plus plenty of skill, has been posing problems for opponents when they try to move the ball up the field, and when the Panthers themselves move the ball in transition, as they did well against Connecticut — although Livesay sees room for more growth there.

“You’re seeing that mostly in the ride, I think, which is really fun, and we’re hoping to expose it more in transition for us,” she said. “We’ll get there.”

A defense led on Saturday by senior Erica Barr, junior Chloe Newman and sophomore Madison Paylor is also quick and aggressive. Basically, the Panthers used their depth and speed to press their opponents all over the field.

“That’s the idea, to wear teams down. There’s just no place where they’re comfortable,” Livesay said. “That’s how we want to play.”

PANTHER SOPHOMORE MIDDIE Jamee Numan cuts through the fan to line up a shot during the Middlebury College lax team’s 19-3 win over visiting Conn College on Saturday.
Independent photo/Steve James

Barr is also just one of three Panther seniors, along with starting goalie Annie Enrietto and reigning NESCAC Player of the Week Jane Earley, who combined for eight goals and four assists in the two wins.

Livesay expects her team to get better as the season progresses, and growth on the part of its many younger players is one reason.

“We are playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores. Although there are a lot of key returners, there’s a bit of youth to us,” she said. “It will be exciting to see how they mature and grow and improve.”

SATURDAY GAME

Vs. Connecticut it took 36 seconds after Earley won the opening draw for Susan Rowley to bolt in from the right side and finish inside the far post to make it 1-0, Panthers. Then Earley scored her first of three goals at 13:04 on a free position. 

At 9:48 Emma Inouye scored in transition to make it 3-0, a goal that followed middie Caroline Messer picking off a pass during a rare Camel foray into the Panther end. 

The first-period goals kept coming. Rowley, who scored four times, converted a nifty Earley feed into traffic. Earley, who helped Middlebury win nine of 11 draws in the quarter, whipped home another free position. Messer dodged through the defense from the left and finished back inside the left post.  

PANTHER SOPHOMORE BURDINE Atherton slices through the Conn College defense to find the net in the Middlebury women’s lacrosse team’s big victory over visiting Conn College on Saturday.
Independent photo/Steve James

The Camels (2-1) broke through at 2:34 to make it 7-1: Kate Coughlin cashed in on a rebound of the Camels’ first shot on Enrietto, who finished with three saves and allowed two goals in the first half. 

The Panthers ran off three more goals before the horn. Rowley took another feed from Earley in a crowd, and spun 180 degrees before tossing the ball high into the cage. Earley nailed another free position at 0:27.5, and Sara Ellinghaus beat the clock at 0:01 on a feed from Messer, who had just won a ground ball.

The Camels scored first in the second quarter when Julianna Ingrassia took a feed from the right and tossed a sidearm laser from a couple steps inside the top of the ran inside the left post to make it 10-2.

But Rowley’s fourth goal, from Earley, and one from Kelcey Dion, set up by Skylar Lach on a free position, made it 12-2 at 9:36 of the period, and the rest of the game was played with the running-time mercy rule. 

PANTHER ATTACKER JANE Earley tosses in one of her four goals in the Middlebury women’s lax team big home victory on Saturday over Conn College.
Independent photo/Steve James

Caroline Adams and Dion scored before the half to make it 15-2. In the second half Aine Downey scored for the Camels to make it 15-3, but the Panthers added the final five goals, three from Jamee Numan on free positions, one from Lach set up by Haley Hamilton, and one from Burdine Atherton assisted by Inouye.

Gina Driscoll made three saves for the Panthers in goal in the second half. Camel goalie Violette Nidds did well to stop seven of Middlebury’s high-percentage shots on goal. 

PANTHER WOMEN’S LAX goalie Annie Enrietto didn’t have much to do in her 30 minutes of action on Saturday, but stopped three of the five shots she saw, including this one, in her team’s 19-3 win over visiting Conn College.
Independent photo/Steve James

BOWDOIN WIN

On the prior Wednesday, the Panthers won at Bowdoin, 15-9, in a game postponed from the weekend before by bad weather. The Panthers got two first-period goals from Hope Shue and one each from Earley, Rowley and Niki Mormile to take a 5-2 lead and were never headed. 

They stretched that lead to 8-4 at the half on late goals by Anna Spehr and Rowley, and Messer made it 9-4 in the second half’s opening minute. Bowdoin rallied to within two twice in the third period, but each time Earley responded with a goal. Spehr scored to open the fourth period to make it 12-8, and the Panthers cruised from there.  

Earley led the attack with four goals and an assist, plus eight draw controls. Rowley finished with a hat trick, and Shue (assist) and Spehr each scored twice. Enrietto made four saves. 

Sophia Sudano led the 2-1 Polar Bears with three goals and two assists, and two Bowdoin goalies combined to make 11 saves.  

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