Panther women’s lax proves its mettle against Tufts, Hamilton
MIDDLEBURY — Another challenge answered: On Saturday the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team protected first place in NESCAC and its top ranking in NCAA Division III by defeated visiting Tufts, 16-9.
The Jumbos came into the game, a rematch of the 2022 national championship game that the Panthers won, undefeated in the league. They dropped to 6-2, 3-1 in NESCAC play.
The Panthers also won at Hamilton on Sunday, 13-6, to improve to 10-0, 6-0 in league action.
In Saturday’s game, the Panthers set the tone early by scoring the first four goals. Kelcey Dion started the party, with an assist from Caroline Messer in the second minute. Jane Earley then scored the next three goals, all in the first 6:19.
The Jumbos answered with goals from Madeline Delaney and Emma Joyce, but Middlebury’s Hope Shue closed the period with a pair free position scores to make it 6-2 after one period.
The scoring pace slowed in the second period. Messer made it 7-2 on a free position 8:30 in, and Joyce responded with her second goal shortly afterward. Middlebury regained its five-goal edge when Shue scored with 31 seconds in the half.
Out of the break, the Jumbos sliced the lead to 8-5 on goals by Ella Lesperance and Caroline Conaghan.
The Panthers responded by putting the game way with four goals over the next eight minutes to make it 12-7. Maggie Coughlin started the run by cutting through the fan and converting an Earley feed, and Shue, Niki Mormile and Earley completed the run.
Tufts did fight back with the first two goals of the fourth quarter in its opening two minutes. But Dion and Susan Rowley answered in the next two minutes to push the lead back to seven, and the teams traded two goals apiece the rest of the way.
With her seven-point output (five goals, two assists), Earley, a senior, moved into seventh place in the Middlebury record books with 230 career points (178 goals including two on Sunday, and 52 assists). Earley also controlled three draws, moving her into second place in the program books with 186, including one on Sunday.
Erica Barr tied for game-high honors with six draw controls. Shue and Dion finished with three goals apiece, Rowley scored two, and three Panthers added one apiece.
Panther goalie Annie Enrietto made five saves, while Jumbo goalie Courtney Kaufman made 13. Joyce led Tufts with three goals, and Conaghan scored twice.
On Sunday, the Panthers bolted to leads of 6-0 after one period, 10-0 in the second period and 11-2 at the half in their 13-6 win at Hamilton (4-6, 1-5 NESCAC).
Coughlin (two assists), Shue, Earley, Messer and Sara Ellinghaus led eight Panther scorers with two goals apiece.
Barr’s four draw controls moved her into third place in the program career record books with 184. Three Panther goalies combined for five saves, and two Continental goalies combined for 11 saves. Aine Cleary led Hamilton with a pair of goals.
Next up for the Panthers is a Saturday visit from another NESCAC challenger, Wesleyan (7-1, 3-1 in league play). Game time is at noon.
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