Middlebury Blanks Trinity To Claim NESCAC Title

2017 NESCAC Champions.
2017 NESCAC Champions.

The Middlebury field hockey team scored four times in the first half and never looked back, as the Panthers posted a 5-0 shutout over Trinity in the NESCAC Championship Game Sunday on Kohn Field. The title was the fifth in program history and the fourth in the last six seasons. The top-seeded and second-ranked Panthers (16-2), who have won 12-straight games, receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will wait for their opponent when the field is announced late Sunday evening.

Middlebury got off to a quick start, taking a 1-0 lead 7:04 into the contest. Grace Jennings took a shot that Trinity goalie Lori Berger stopped, but Molly Freeman slid in the rebound inside the right post. Emma Johns doubled the advantage for the Panthers, spinning and shooting from the left side for her fifth tally of the season with an even 23:00 on the clock.

The 17th-ranked Bantams (12-6), who were the fifth seed in the league tournament, had a quality chance to close the gap on a penalty corner with just over 17 minutes left in the half. Kelcie Finn fired a shot from the top of the arc that deflected off a defender, but Middlebury goalie Abby Furdak swatted the ball away as it was headed toward the upper portion of the net.

Annie Leonard closed out the half with a pair of goals, scoring the first (21:58) on an assist from Erin Nicholas and second (26:31) on a give-and-go with Lauren Schweppe. Both tallies came in the final 15 minutes of the opening frame as the hosts led 4-0 at the break.

In the second half, the Panthers added a final goal with 24:46 on the clock when Freeman tipped in a shot by Schweppe.

The Bantams attempted to spoil the shutout in the final 10 minutes with a rush that began at midfield. Kendall Brown carried the ball toward the Panther cage in transition with Finn racing down the right side, but Middlebury defender Olivia Green made a stellar defensive play to end the threat and preserve the final 5-0 score.

With her two goals, Leonard climbed into second place on the program's career scoring list with 165 points (71 goals and 23 assists). She moved past Catherine Fowler '14, who had 162 points.

Furdak made one save for her fourth shutout of the season, while Berger had eight stops for the Bantams. Middlebury held an 18-4 edge in shots and took six the game's eight penalty corners.