Middlebury earned a spot in the NCAA Quarterfinals for the fourth-straight season, as 11 different players scored to lead the fourth-ranked Panthers (18-2) to an 18-4 victory over Illinois Wesleyan Saturday. This marked the first meeting between the two programs. Middlebury will face #8 York (Pa.), a 13-6 winner over #14 Catholic, in the regional final at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, while the Titans finish their season at 16-5.
The hosts got off to a quick start, netting a pair of goals early in a span of 39 seconds. Erin Nicholas converted a free-position attempt and Kirsten Murphy sent a pass from behind the cage to a cutting Emily Barnard for a 2-0 with 1:44 expired. The Panthers struck for two more quick goals minutes later when Sara DiCenso tallied, and 15 seconds later, Emma McDonagh bounced in a shot from a free-position attempt for a 4-0 edge.
Murphy extended the advantage to 6-0 with a pair of scores, while assisting on a marker by Claire Russell, who bounced a shot through Titan goalie Janaye Godfrey at the midway point of the half. Kate Zecca, MG Gately and Jenna McNicholas tacked on consecutive unassisted goals, pushing the cushion to 10-0.
Illinois Wesleyan's Mariah Smith cashed in a nice feed from Abby Kushina with 3:20 showing on the clock, before Gately closed out the scoring in the opening minutes on an eight-meter attempt for an 11-1 advantage at the half.
Middlebury scored the first four goals of the new frame, taking a 15-1 leads with 20:39 remaining. The Titans had two of the next three scores, as Smith and Dani Engelbreit sandwiched goals around a tally by McNicholas.
In the final seven minutes, Sarah Weppler and Zecca each found the back of the net for the hosts, while Smith closed out the scoring with 2:38 remaining for the 18-4 final.
Murphy topped the Panthers with three goals and two assists, while McNicholas also registered a hat trick. Russell added to the balanced offense with two goals and one assist. Hollis Perticone led all players with six draw controls and Nicholas finished with three caused turnovers. Kate Furber did not face a shot in the opening 15 minutes, while Julia Keith made one save the rest of the half. Alex Freedman played the final 30 minutes and had one save.
Smith had three goals to lead the Titans, while Engelbreit tallied once and collected five draw controls. Godfrey finished with 12 saves in the opening half and had a team-best three ground balls, while Claire Quist had one save in the second half.
Illinois Wesleyan entered the game ranked 10th nationally in team defense, allowing 6.70 goals per game, but yielded a season-high 18 against Middlebury. The Panthers have scored 18 times in both of their NCAA victories.