MANHEIM, Pa. – Tufts University Field Hockey fell short against Middlebury College 2-0 in the NCAA Championship game Sunday afternoon at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex. The Panthers have now won back-to-back NCAA titles, three of the last four and four overall.
This was the third time these two teams have met this season, and the fourth time that the Jumbos have made the NCAA title game. With the loss, the Jumbos finished the season with a 19-3 record. With the win, Middlebury finished the year at 21-1.
Starting the first half, both teams were composed and handled the ball well. Each team appeared to be comfortable with the quick surface. The Jumbos spent a good chunk of time in the Panthers' end, creating pressure in front of Middlebury goalkeeper Megan Collins. This led to an early penalty corner seven minutes in for Tufts. Junior Marguerite Salamone inserted a pass to sophomore Beth Krikorian who ripped a shot towards Collins that was kicked away. Following up the rebound, junior Rachel Hamilton had her shot coming from the left side of the circle stopped as well off the pads of Collins.
Shortly after, Middlebury found open field which led to their first chance of the game. Receiving a penalty corner off of a Jumbo foul in the circle, the Panthers' scored the first goal of the game. Marissa Baker put a shot towards net that was blocked by a Jumbo, but dispersed to Erin Nicholas who put it past freshman goalkeeper Andie Stallman for a 1-0 Panther lead in the 13th minute.
The Jumbos, who held possession throughout the early stages of the first half, went right back to work after the goal, drawing a penalty corner of their own. However, the Panthers defended it nicely while the Jumbos didn't get a clean look. Salamone and Hamilton centered passes in the Panthers' circle multiple times in the first half which resulted in penalty corners for the Jumbos and pressure in front of Collins. However, the persistent Middlebury defense wouldn't budge on all seven Jumbo penalty corners in the half. Nicholas, who both offensively and defensively was all over the field, did a good job containing the Jumbos' offense. On perhaps Tufts' best chance, senior co-captain Gigi Tutoni hit the post in the 21st minute.
Towards the end of the frame, Emma Johns for Middlebury got denied by Stallman near the corner of the cage, keeping it a 1-0 game heading into the next half.
The Jumbos earned advantages of 8-3 in shots and 7-2 in corners for the first 35 minutes, but the goal by Nicholas had Middlebury with a 1-0 lead.
Middlebury came into the second half with much more intensity and energy compared to the previous frame. On a penalty corner just two minutes in, Grace Jennings came inches away from making it a 2-0 game, as her tipped shot went just wide left of the net.
With the pressure starting to mount in the Jumbos' end, the ball continuously went across the crease next to Stallman. Holding her line well, Stallman went back-and-forth and made it difficult for the Panthers to get it past her. Senior Issy Del Priore had a big defensive save during that sequence to keep it a one score game still.
During the middle of the half, Middlebury held most of the possession. Tufts couldn't create any separation, while they had no shots in the first 27 minutes of second-half action. Stallman kept the Jumbos in the game, with a key stop against Danielle Brown on the right side of the goal from point-blank range.
However, Middlebury's high powered offense would only be held back for so long. In the 59th minute, Nicholas scored her second goal of the game, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead. She dribbled through traffic, right to left, finishing with a reverse sweep shot to the right corner of the goal past Stallman.
The Jumbos would get a penalty corner towards the end of the half, but were unable to capitalize and took their third loss against the Panthers this season.
The Jumbos had 12 total shots while Middlebury had nine. Tufts had nine penalty corners while Middlebury had five. Collins had five saves in the shut-out, while Stallman finished with four.
Senior co-captain Fallon Shaughnessy and Hamilton from Tufts were named to the All-Tournament team.
Tufts has now been the national runner-up three times, including 2016 and 2008.
Written by Athletic Communications Intern Ryan Servant