Women's Lacrosse Edged 10-9 by Middlebury in NESCAC Championship Game

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The number one seed Middlebury College Panthers edged number two seed Tufts University 10-9 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship Game on Sunday afternoon at Kohn Field. The game featured six lead changes and six ties.

Lawliss recorded a team-leading three points with two goals and an assist

The Jumbos fell to 16-2 overall, but are very likely to receive an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament which will be announced tonight at 9:30 pm. Middlebury improves to 17-1 and earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers won their NESCAC-leading 10th conference championship.

Tufts and Middlebury entered the contest with two of the top three defenses in the NESCAC, so both teams knew it had the potential to be a low-scoring game. The Panthers struck first with a goal off the stick of senior Emma McDonagh to take an early lead. Tufts junior Emily Games responded with a goal after to even the score after senior Annie Sullivan won the ensuing draw control. The Jumbos scored the contest's next goal as Sullivan found sophomore Catherine Lawliss to give the visitors a 2-1 with 22:39 left in the first half. Games then earned a free-position shot, but Panther junior goalie Julia Keith recorded a save.

After a pair of turnovers by both teams in a five-minute span, Middlebury sophomore Kirsten Murphy scored the game's next goal off a pass from first-year Jane Earley to tie the game at 2-2. Panther senior Jenna McNicholas went on to net a goal four minutes later off another pass from Earley giving the hosts a 3-2 edge. Tufts sophomore Kirsten Grazewski then earned a free-position shot, but Keith again made a save on the ball. Middlebury sophomore Grace Getman also had a free-position attempt, but Jumbo senior Audrey Evers denied her shot.

Tufts' NESCAC Rookie of the Year Colette Smith returned to the field and scored during an active Jumbo offfensive stretch to tie the game at 3-3 with 8:01 left in the first half. Earley would answer the Smith goal off a pass from sophomore Erin Nicholas to retake a one-goal advantage for the hosts. After the Earley goal, Evers came up with a save on a free-position attempt  by junior Emily Barnard to keep it a one-goal game. Tufts senior Courtney Grygiel then found senior Cecily Freliech who put the ball in the net to tie the game at 4-4. Games then scored the final goal of the half with 1:52 left off a free-position shot as the Jumbos took a 5-4 lead into the locker room.

Lawliss opened the second half with a shot on goal, but it was stopped by Keith. Barnard then had a shot on goal get stopped by newly-entered Tufts first-year goalie Molly Laliberty as each team had god scoring chances out of the break. Tufts junior Maddie Norman got the second half going with a goal off a free-position shot to give the Jumbos a 6-4 advantage. Norman then scored the next goal off a pass from Lawliss and the two unanswered gave Tufts its biggest lead at 7-4.

Murphy and the Panthers would respond with a goal off a pass from Earley to cut the deficit to two goals. Middlebury first-year Erica Barr then won the draw control and Earley eventually scored late into the possession to get the Panthers within a goal (7-6). Fellow Middlebury first-year Lily Riseberg had a chance with 16:33 remaining in regulation, but Laliberty saved it.

Games earned a free-position chance two minutes later, but had her shot ring off the post. After the Jumbos' defense forced a turnover and earned a man-up opportunity, Grazewski found Lawliss for a man-advanage goal to extend the Jumbos' lead to 8-6. Smith then had a chance to extend the lead, but Keith made a nice save on the left-handed shot. Earley would respond with the contest's next two goals over a two-minute stretch for Middlebury to tie the game at 8-8 with 10:25 remaining. Barnard had an opportunity to give the Panthers the lead, but Laliberty recorded another timely save.

Sullivan scored perhaps the biggest goal of her Jumbo career with 8:17 on the clock to give the Jumbos a 9-8 advantage following the Laliberty save. McDonagh then had three opportunities within a minute, but sent one wide of the cage and the other two were stopped by Laliberty. However, Earley earned a free-position attempt with 5:08 remaining and buried the shot to tie the game at 9-9. McDonagh, the Panthers' season-leading scorer, buried a shot with 4:04 left to give Middlebury a 10-9 edge.

The score remained 10-9 Panthers heading into the final minute. After a pair of Jumbo shots that went wide, Games earned a free-position attempt with under 0:30 remaining. At a bad angle, she was unable to get a shot away and Middlebury won a ground ball to hang on to win 10-9.

The Jumbos' offense was led by Lawliss who netted two goals and dished out an assist. Norman, who caused two turnovers and picked up three ground balls, and Games also scored a pair of goals in the contest. Sullivan recorded a goal and an assist. Smith and Freliech also added a goal apiece for the Jumbos. Laliberty stopped five Panther shots and scooped up a team-high three ground balls.

Earley led the Panthers with five goals and three assists, as she had a hand in eight of the Panthers' 10 goals. McDonagh and Murphy each netted a pair of goals. McNicholas had the other Middlebury goal. Barr scooped up a team-high three ground balls and Keith recorded six saves in goal.

The Panthers had small advantages in the stat categories, including 32-26 in shots, 13-8 in draw controls and 18-17 in ground balls.

Written By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello