Field Hockey Downs Rowan – Headed to Title Game

Grace Jennings scored twice and dished out an assist in the NCAA Semifinal win (Mark Palczewski).
Grace Jennings scored twice and dished out an assist in the NCAA Semifinal win (Mark Palczewski).

MIDDLEBURY PRESS CONFERENCE

Second-ranked Middlebury advanced to the NCAA Championship game for the eighth time after a 4-2 win over third-ranked Rowan (22-1) at the Spooky Nook Dome in Manheim, Pennsylvania. The Panthers (20-1) will face Tufts in an All-NESCAC final on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Middlebury defeated Tufts 2-1 in overtime on October 6, before earning a 1-0 win over the Jumbos in the NESCAC Championship game.

Rowan jumped on top just 2:52 into the game on a goal that began on a penalty corner after an initial shot by Rachel Galante. Julie Johnson collected the rebound just inside the circle and made a pass down low to Bridget Guinan, who redirected the ball into the left side of the net for the 1-0 advantage.

Middlebury answered when Grace Jennings put home her own rebound from point-blank range at the 6:14 mark.

With the game tied at 1-1, the Profs had a chance to regain the lead 10 minutes into the contest, but Krystyna Hovell's breakaway bid was denied by Middlebury goalkeeper Megan Collins.

Jennings had another opportunity on the other end of the field, carrying the ball 60 yards on her own before her shot went just wide of the right goal post. Marissa Baker had a strong bid with 12:40 remaining in the half, but after beating a defender and driving to the goal, her shot was saved by Rowan keeper Morgan Novak.

Middlebury took a 2-1 lead when Jennings netted her team-leading 16th tally of the season at the 26:26 mark. After carrying to ball in from the left side, Jennings centered a pass to Baker, who returned it to Jennings at the left post for the goal.

The Panthers made it a 3-1 game 5:47 into the second half when Danielle Brown scored her 11th goal of the season. Baker split a pair of defenders and carried the ball up the field before finding Brown on the right wing. After taking a few strides forward, Brown blasted a shot into the far side of the cage for the two-goal lead.

Rowan maintained possession for much of the next 12 minutes, but was unable to muster up any quality scoring chances. With 17 minutes remaining, Jennings nearly increased the lead when her shot breaking in on the left wing hit the post.

Galante had a chance to cut the deficit to one, but her shot went just wide on a penalty corner with 12:00 left, before Erin Nicholas' blast also went wide at the 9:30 mark.

Rowan made it a one-goal game when Galante converted a penalty stroke with a shot to the top-left corner of the cage with 4:40 remaining. The goal was her 30th of the season.

Just 1:02 later, the Panthers regained a two-goal advantage on a great passing play, resulting in the 12th goal of the season for Brown. Jennings and Baker worked a give-and-go, before Jennings found Brown on a nice crossing pass from five yards out.

Middlebury finished with a slim 15-14 advantage in shots, while Rowan led in penalty corners, 7-2. Collins finished with a season-high six saves in goal, including five in the first half. Novak made five stops for the Profs.

The Panthers tied a school record with their 20th win and are now 10-1 against ranked opponents this season. With her assist, Jennings moved into second place on the school's all-time assists record with 46. Rowan had not allowed more than two goals in a game this season.