Middlebury Edges Bowdoin for NESCAC Title

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. Middlebury won its ninth NESCAC Championship on Sunday with a 13-10 win over Bowdoin on Kohn Field. With the win, the top-seeded Panthers improve to 16-2, while the fourth-seeded Polar Bears fall to 13-5. Sixth-ranked Middlebury earns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, while #13 Bowdoin will hope for an at-large invitation when the field is announced late Sunday night.

Bowdoin opened the scoring at the 24:47 mark when Allison Williams capitalized on a free position attempt. Middlebury's Emma McDonagh scored a side-arm free position for the equalizer, making it 1-1 at the 19:40 mark. The Polar Bears answered 4:27 later, when Hannah Hirschfeld scooped up a loose ball and squeezed it past Middlebury goalie Julia Keith for the 2-1 advantage. Just 45 seconds later, Panther Grace Getman spun around a Bowdoin defender before finding the back of the net, knotting the game 2-2.

The Polar Bears tacked on two more tallies for a 4-2 advantage with 9:03 remaining in the half. Middlebury answered with two goals of its own, tying the game at 4-4 with 6:17 remaining. Kristen Murphy found the back of the net after a spin move around a Bowdoin defender gave her shooting space, before Georgia Carroll took advantage of a turnover by the Polar Bears. The teams traded the final two goals of the stanza, making it 5-5 heading into the locker room.

Out of the intermission, Williams found a cutting Hirschfeld, who buried the ball in the top left corner of the net on a player advantage, making it 6-5 at the 24:38 mark. The Panthers recorded the game's next three goals, taking advantage of two extra-player opportunities, for an 8-6 edge with 14:29 left in the contest.

The Polar Bears cut into the advantage, scoring twice to knot the game at 8-8 at the 12:53 mark. Middlebury responded just 50 seconds later when Erin Nicholas scored a free-position goal with a player advantage to make it 9-8. Down a player, Hirschfeld found a cutting Eliza Denious, who lifted the ball over Middlebury goalie Kate Furber, making it 9-9 with 10:54 remaining. Just 53 seconds later, Nicholas' free-position bounce shot gave Middlebury a 10-9 edge. The Panthers increased the lead to 11-9 when Casey O'Neill's bounce-shot snuck past Bowdoin goalie Kayli Weiss at the 7:08 mark.

Polar Bear Kara Finnerty capitalized on a free-position shot, making it a one-goal game (11-10) with 5:47 remaining. Just 40 seconds later, McDonagh beat a defender before burying the ball in the bottom right of the goal for a 12-10 lead. With 3:09 remaining, Carroll added one more for the Panthers on a free-position, for a 13-10 final.

McDonagh's three goals paced Middlebury, while Carroll scored twice and Sara DiCenso dished out two assists. Susanna Baker forced three turnovers and picked up three ground balls, while Evie Keating had scooped up three ground balls and caused a pair of turnovers. Hollis Perticone won seven draw controls in the win, while forcing a pair of turnovers. Keith made three first-half saves and allowed five goals, while Furber earned the win, making eight stops and allow five goals in the final 30 minutes.

Hirschfeld led all scorers with four goals for Bowdoin, while Denious earned two tallies with an assist. Katie Miller finished with five draw controls, while Finnerty and Grace DeWald each had picked up four ground balls. Weiss made 11 saves on the afternoon for the Polar Bears.

This was the second time in NESCAC history that the two teams squared off for the title, with Middlebury picking up a 14-8 win in 2006. The Panthers are now 9-2 all-time in NESCAC Championship games.

Courtesy: Middlebury Athletics