Middlebury's Annie Leonard scored 35 seconds into overtime, lifting the second-ranked Panthers to a 2-1 victory over 10th-ranked Franklin & Marshall in an NCAA semifinal contest at Bellarmine University. The Panthers move to 19-2, and will play Messiah in the NCAA Championship game on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. at the University of Louisville. The Diplomats conclude their season with an 18-4 record.
There were few scoring opportunities in the first half as Middlebury held a slight edge in shots (3-0). The Panthers had two quick scoring opportunities in the 14th minute, but back-to-back shots by Erin Nicholas and Grace Jennings were denied by Diplomat goalie Illianna Santangelo, keeping the match scoreless.
Middlebury got on the board at the 24:42 mark when Nicholas worked the ball around the circle from right to left. Her pass found Julia Richards, whose shot was redirected by Jennings into the back of the cage, making it 1-0.
Out of the break, Franklin & Marshall wasted little time finding the equalizer. Just 21 seconds into the stanza, Diplomat Annie Horsley converted a penalty stroke, making it a 1-1 game.
Franklin & Marshall had an opportunity to double its lead at the 55:36 mark, but Erin Coverdale's hard shot sailed just wide right of the cage.
The game winner came just 35 seconds into overtime. Audrey Quirk worked the ball down the left side of the field, before sending a through pass to Nicholas in the far right corner. Nicholas centered a feed that deflected into the air off a charging Santangelo. Leonard swatted the rebound out of the air, finding the upper-left corner of the goal.
Middlebury held a slight edge in shots (6-4), while the Diplomats had a 3-1 advantage in penalty corners. Abby Furdak was forced to make just two saves for the Panthers, while Santangelo had four stops.
The Panthers extend their win streak to 15 games and will be appearing in their seventh championship match.