From a season lost come tighter bonds

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S. Burlington Monday, April 27th

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- As April winds down, the NESCAC playoffs would normally be gearing up. Middlebury's spring sports teams are regular contenders for conference and national crowns. None more than the team that plays at Kohn Field, women's lacrosse.

The Middlebury women's lacrosse team has advanced to the NCAA Tournament every year but once since 1994, winning seven national and ten NESCAC championships, including both titles last season while going 22-1. This season, Middlebury was 3-0 start and ranked first in the nation when the spring sports season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This weekend would have been the start of the NESCAC tournament. Panthers coach Kate Livesay says, while it has been tough at times, the task for both her and her team has been to try and look ahead instead of think about what might have been.

"The first time we chatted as a team after when our season was canceled was very emotional.", said head coach Kate Livesay. "And we just challenged the team to not do that, not do the 'what if's', and to just think forward and think about the things that they can control."

The people most impacted by the season's cancellation were the Panther's five seniors, Emily Barnard, Hayden Garrett, Julia Keith, Mollie Smith and Kate Zecca. Their bid to end their Middlebury careers with a second straight national title and fourth straight NESCAC crown was cut short, but Livesay says the way they handled that disappointment will leave a lasting impact.

"It's a group that will forever, in the history books, be a special group and while we won't know if we could have been national champions, I don't think it matters. I think the success story here is how impressive they have dealt with a really challenging circumstances."

Livesay says since the season was canceled she and her staff have had more time to stay connected not only with her team, but incoming recruits and prospective high school players as well. And the Panthers have been holding team workouts via Zoom on Saturday's that have seen up to eighty alums taking part. She feels that the program will come out of this challenging time even stronger than it already was.

"We are realizing just how powerful and meaningful that four-year experience was to teach us how to face challenge. How to support each other through difficult times and really what the life benefits are of having great teammates great coaches and a program that continues to welcome in impressive young women. And we are looking forward to continuing to sustain those sort of connections over the next several years."