MANHEIM, Pa. Second-ranked Middlebury advanced to the NCAA Championship game for the ninth time in program history after a 1-0 win over third-ranked Salisbury (20-2) Saturday at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, Pennsylvania. The two-time defending NCAA Champion Panthers (20-1) will face No. 6 Franklin & Marshall in the championship game on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
In the first quarter, Middlebury had the best chance to get on the scoreboard 4:38 into play. Erin Nicholas drove down the right side, lifting a shot from three yards out that Salisbury goalie Dom Farrace saved with her left pad.
The second quarter saw Middlebury control much of the action in its offensive end. The Panthers had a pair of quality scoring opportunities, both coming on penalty corners. With just over six minutes left, Emma Johns received a pass driving toward the goal and lifted a shot from five yards that Farrace padded away. In the final minute, the Panthers worked the ball around the circle before Johns laced a shot that was saved by Farrace on the left side of the crease, sending the contest scoreless into the halftime break.
After the intermission on a penalty corner with 13:20 left in the third quarter, a shot from Marissa Baker on the left side was denied by Farrace. The Panthers broke through with the game's first goal nearly seven minutes later. Olivia Green sent a long forward pass that found the stick of Nicholas on the run. She worked down the right side, threading a pass through a couple of Salisbury defenders before finding Katie George inside the circle. In one quick motion, George turned around and fired the ball inside the right post from seven yards out for the 1-0 lead with 6:27 left. The goal was George's team-best 13th tally of the season. The Panthers fended off a five-minute yellow card, not allowing a shot on goal to carry the lead into the final quarter.
In the fourth, Middlebury earned four-straight penalty corners in the early minutes, but Salisbury was able to keep the Panthers from doubling the lead. Middlebury's defense held the Sea Gulls without a shot over the first 52:09 of the contest, as Salisbury earned its first shot with 7:51 remaining, as an attempt by Arielle Johnston was blocked on a penalty corner. On the second of back-to-back penalty corners with 3:29 left, Panther goalie Grace Harlan charged off her line to save a low, hard attempt from Salisbury's Camryn Dennis to keep the Middlebury lead at 1-0. The Panthers held Salisbury without a shot over the remainder of the game en route to the thrilling victory.
Middlebury finished with a 13-4 advantage in shots and a 10-6 edge in penalty corners. Harlan concluded the contest with one big fourth-quarter save for her eighth shutout, tying her with Megan Collins (2018) and Olivia Miller (2015) for the most in a single season. Farrace made six stops for the Sea Gulls.
Middlebury will play Franklin & Marshall for the fourth time overall, each coming in the NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers are now 9-1 against ranked opponents this season.
Courtesy: Middlebury Athletics