The Middlebury College field hockey team will make its ninth trip to the NCAA final four when they travel to Louisville, Kentucky. The semifinals will be played on Owsley Frazier Field hosted by Bellarmine University, while the title game will take place in Trager Stadium at the University of Louisville. The Panthers take on Franklin & Marshall at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, November 17, while defending champion Messiah will battle The College of New Jersey at 4:00 p.m. The winners will meet in the NCAA Championship game on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Tickets are priced at $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens each day and will be available at the gate.
Second-ranked Middlebury enters the weekend with an overall record of 35-16 in NCAA Tournament play. The Panthers won NCAA titles in 1998 and 2015, while advancing to the finals in 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2011.
Middlebury earned its way into the NCAA Tournament with the NESCAC's automatic bid after claiming the league title for the fifth time over 17th-ranked Trinity, 5-0.
Last weekend, the Panthers made quick work of both the University of New England and the University of Rochester, blanking each team 5-0. Middlebury allowed just one shot on goal in the two victories.
The Panthers enter the semifinals with an 18-2 record and winners of 14-straight games, with both losses coming by one goal against teams ranked in the top 15 nationally at the time. Middlebury's offense is third nationally with 4.45 goals/game, while the team's scoring margin (+3.41) is also third.
The Panthers have scored five or more goals in seven of their last eight contests, including three-straight 5-0 victories. The team also earned three-consecutive shutouts earlier in the season, giving them eight this fall.
Head coach Katharine DeLorenzo is in her 17th year, owning a record of 264-60 (.815) at Middlebury and 361-124-2 (.742) overall entering the weekend. She was recently named the NESCAC Coach of the Year for the second time.
Senior captain Annie Leonard along with juniors Grace Jennings and Molly Freeman lead an experienced group of forwards. Leonard has produced team-best totals in goals (16) and points (40) this fall. The two-time Second-Team All-NESCAC selection has scored at least one point in 15 games and two or more on 13 occasions this fall, including a pair of goals in the NESCAC Championship victory over Trinity. She is second all-time at Middlebury with 73 goals as well as 170 points.
Jennings, a Third-Team NFHCA All-American in 2016 and a two-time Second-Team All-NESCAC recipient, paces the conference (sixth nationally) with 14 assists go along with 11 goals for 36 points. She has 38 career helpers entering this weekend, placing her third on the program's career list. The 2015 NESCAC Rookie of the Year has recorded at least two points in 11 of her last 15 games, including a season-best six points (2-2-6) in a road win at Bates.
Freeman ranks second on the team with 12 goals and third with 27 points. The third-year player has four game-winning goals, including the decisive tally during Middlebury's NESCAC Championship victory over Trinity on Sunday. Entering the weekend, she has accounted for 10 career game-winning scores.
Sophomore Julia Richards (7-0-14) has seen action in 19 games this season, scoring a goal in each NCAA Tournament win.
In the midfield, sophomore Marissa Baker (9-4-22) has played in every contest this fall with 16 starts and two game-winning goals, while classmate Emma Johns (6-3-15) has started all 20 games for the Panthers. Joining them is classmate Kelly Coyle (2-3-7), who has earned the starting nod in 19 of 20 contests.
The Panther defense features a talented group led by senior captains Audrey Quirk and Lauren Schweppe. Quirk has appeared in 68 career games, playing in all 20 contests this season as a defensive midfielder with 17 starts. The main inserter on penalty corners, she patrols a majority of the field and has five goals and eight assists this fall.
Schweppe, a recent NESCAC Player of the Week, has started every game over the last two seasons and also plays much of the field as a defensive midfielder. She has five goals, many of them on penalty corners, to go along with seven assists this season for 17 points. She tallied two assists in the league title win over Trinity.
In addition to Quirk and Schweppe on the defensive end, sophomore Olivia Green and rookie Erin Nicholas (9-5-23) anchor the back. Green has started all 18 games in which she has played, while Nicholas has tallied 14 points in her last seven games. The quartet has helped Middlebury allow one goal or less 13 times this season, logging eight shutouts.
Rookie goalie Abby Furdak (15-1) took over the starting job on September 23 and has been there ever since with six shutouts. She made a season-high nine saves in a 6-1 victory at Colby on September 30. Her six shutouts tie her for first in the NESCAC, while her 0.94 GAA is second.
2017 NCAA Semifinals
Friday, November 17 - Owsley Frazier Field – Louisville, Ky.
#3 The College of New Jersey (17-3) vs. #1 Messiah (21-0) – 4:00 p.m.
#2 Middlebury (18-2) vs. #10 Franklin & Marshall (17-3) – 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 19 – Trager Stadium – Louisville, Ky.
NCAA Championship Game – 5:00 p.m.