MIDDLEBURY, Vt. The second-ranked Middlebury field hockey team scored three times in the opening 10 minutes on their way to a 5-1 triumph over The College of New Jersey (16-5) on Sunday in NCAA Tournament action. The victory sends the Panthers to the NCAA final four for the fourth time in the last five years. Middlebury, the defending national champions, advances to the NCAA Semifinals on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. against undefeated and third-ranked Rowan at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, Pennsylvania. The other semifinal features fourth-ranked Tufts and ninth-ranked Johns Hopkins at 11:00 a.m. Saturday's winners advance to the NCAA Championship on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Seventh-ranked TCNJ finished its season at 16-5.
Middlebury raced out to an early lead, scoring 2:27 into the contest. The play started with a penalty corner, as Marissa Baker fed Emma Johns on the left wing with a short pass. After collecting the ball, Johns fired a shot past TCNJ keeper Maddie Beaumont. The Panther struck again just over five minutes later, as Erin Nicholas weaved through the Lion defense and flipped a shot into the cage for her team-leading 15th goal of the season.
Following a timeout by the Lions immediately after the score, Middlebury quickly made it a three-goal cushion when Grace Jennings used her speed to create a scoring chance, resulting in a tally from close range with 26:39 on the clock.
TCNJ's Jackie Schwartz made a nice defensive save on Jennings with 13:39 left in the half to keep the difference at three, while Tori Hannah had a quality scoring chance for the visitors in the final minute. Hannah took a pass from Samantha Reed off a penalty corner on the right side and laced a shot off the right post.
In the second stanza, the Panthers had a couple of early penalty corners, but the visitors held their ground. Middlebury eventually increased the advantage to 4-0 when Meg Fearey tapped in a pass from Baker. The hosts made it a 5-0 contest with 18:26 remaining, as Baker blasted a shot from the top of the arc on a penalty corner. Isabel Chandler inserted the ball with Jennings being the stopper, as both players earned assists on the play.
The Lions came close to getting on the scoreboard with 12:30 left in the game on a shot from the right side by Hannah, but Panther goalie Megan Collins kicked the bid aside. The visitors spoiled the shutout with 9:53 on the clock, on a hard shot from the top of the arc by Sidney Padilla.
Collins posted a pair of saves to earn the win in goal for Middlebury, while Beaumont stopped eight for the Lions.
The hosts held a 20-5 edge in shots and boasted an 11-3 margin in penalty corners.
The win gave the Middlebury a 4-3 advantage in the all-time series against TCNJ, with each meeting coming in the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers also finished with a perfect 12-0 record at home this season and have won 22-straight games on Kohn Field dating back to September of 2017.
Courtesy: Middlebury Athletics