MANHEIM, Pa. Middlebury (21-1) claimed its third-straight NCAA Championship on Sunday with a 1-0 win No. 6 Franklin & Marshall in Manheim, Pennsylvania at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex. Middlebury becomes just the second program in NCAA Division III field hockey history to win three-straight NCAA Championships (Salisbury 2003-05). The title is the program's fourth in the last five years and fifth overall (1998, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019). The national championship is the 38th in team sports for Middlebury College since 1994.
In the first quarter, shots were hard to come by for both teams. The best scoring chance came near the midway point of the frame when the Panthers earned a pair of penalty corners. On the first, Marissa Baker ripped a shot from 10 yards on the left that went just wide. The next corner saw an attempt by Baker from five yards out saved by Diplomat goalie Christina Seery's right pad. F&M pressed for a goal late in the quarter, as Erin Coverdale's blast from just inside the circle on a penalty corner scooted just wide to the left.
In the second quarter, Middlebury had a great chance with five minutes left when Erin Nicholas dribbled down the middle of the field for nearly 60 yards, taking a reverse-stick shot from the left that went just wide to the right. In the final 30 seconds, the Diplomats tallied their best chance of the quarter when Darby Klopp tipped a through pass on the right post that Panther goalie Grace Harlan saved with her left pad to send the contest into halftime scoreless.
After the break, much of the third quarter was played in the midfield. With less than two minutes left, Middlebury had a great chance when Nicholas intercepted a clearing attempt, worked her way into the circle and lifted a reverse-stick shot that Seery got a piece of with her left pad. A minute later, the Panthers garnered a penalty corner, but Isabel Chandler's lifted shot sailed just high to send the game into the final quarter scoreless.
Middlebury tallied the game's lone goal with 6:17 remaining. Chandler worked down the left side of the field, sending a cross that dribbled through traffic before Baker collected it at the top of the circle. She spun to her right and ripped a shot that glanced off a defender's stick and caromed up and over Seery as she tried to knock down with her stick, but the ball found the back of the net. The goal was Baker's eighth of the season.
The Panthers nearly doubled their lead three minutes later, but Nicholas' attempt was saved by Seery on the post. With 2:35 remaining, F&M looked for the equalizer on a penalty corner, but Coverdale's shot went wide right. The Panthers were a player down for nearly the final minute, but the defense limited the Diplomats without a shot and earned the title.
Middlebury finished with a 9-4 advantage in shots and a 5-3 edge in penalty corners. Harlan concluded the contest with one save for her ninth shutout, the most in a single season for a Panther goalie. Seerey made three stops for the Diplomats.
Nicholas was recognized as the tournament's most outstanding player, while Baker, Olivia Green and Katie George were each named to the all-tournament team.
The victory increased Middlebury's NCAA winning streak to 12, as the Panthers tied their single-season mark for victories (21). Middlebury concludes the year on an eight-game victory streak and finishes with a 10-1 record against ranked teams this season.
The field hockey team is the fourth program at Middlebury to capture three-straight NCAA titles, joining men's hockey (1995-1999, 2004-2006), women's hockey (2004-2006) and men's lacrosse (2000-2002).
Courtesy: Middlebury Athletics