The Middlebury field hockey team reeled off four-straight goals in the second half, rallying past Bates for a 6-3 NESCAC victory Saturday in Maine. The victory was the eighth straight for the second-ranked Panthers (12-2, 8-1), while the 20th-ranked Bobcats (7-6, 4-5) saw their five-game winning streak end. Middlebury hosts Williams in the regular-season finale Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The win also clinched the top seed in the upcoming NESCAC Tournament for the Panthers, giving them home-field advantage throughout the championship event.
Middlebury had a tremendous chance to claim the early lead when the Panthers were awarded a penalty stroke. Annie Leonard took the stroke for the visitors eight minutes into the game, but her attempt went wide left. The Bobcats quickly countered, scoring seconds later when Emily Gianunzio poked in Taylor Lough's pass from in front of the cage. The goal was the first allowed by Middlebury in 253:41 of game time. The hosts increased their lead to 2-0, taking advantage of a penalty corner as Jessie Moriarty knocked in a feed from Shelbie McCormick with 13:58 on the clock.
The Panthers stormed back to tie the contest, scoring a pair of goals in a span of 2:12. Grace Jennings made it 2-1 sweeping in her own rebound with 10:36 left in the stanza and then created the tying goal with a steal near midfield. After gaining possession, she carried the ball toward the net from the left side and sent a crossing pass to Julia Richards, who netted her fifth goal of the season. The score remained deadlocked at 2-2 into the half.
Bates jumped back in front just 1:43 into the second frame, as Sydney Beres rolled in a centering pass from Moriarty for a 3-2 edge. Middlebury battled back to tie the game at 3-3 when Marissa Baker tipped in a pass from the left side by Audrey Quick with 20:37 remaining. The Panthers took their first lead (4-3) just 1:40 later, as Baker centered a pass from the right side to a charging Erin Nicholas, who hit the offering into the cage for her fifth goal of the season.
Middlebury stayed on the offensive, making it a 5-3 game with 11:37 left in the second half. Jennings carried the ball along the end line from the left, before centering a pass across the goalmouth to Baker, who notched her second tally of the game. Jennings tacked on her second of the contest with 7:35, taking advantage of a failed clear by the Bobcats.
Panther goalie Abby Furdak made one save to earn the win in goal, while Adelae Durand had 10 stops for Bates. Middlebury held a decisive 23-5 edge in shots and 13-1 in penalty corners.