Middlebury Edges Bowdoin for NCAA Championship

The Panthers celebrate after winning the 2015 NCAA Championship. (photo courtesy of Keith Lucas - Sideline Media Productions)
The Panthers celebrate after winning the 2015 NCAA Championship. (photo courtesy of Keith Lucas - Sideline Media Productions)

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The Middlebury field hockey team won its second NCAA Championship and its first since 1998 by a 1-0 score over top-ranked Bowdoin on Washington and Lee's Turf Field. The national championship is the 32nd overall for the school since 1994, as the Panthers finish their season with a school-record 20 wins (20-2). Third-ranked Middlebury earned NCAA wins over #5 Franklin & Marshall, #6 William Smith, #2 The College of New Jersey and top-ranked Bowdoin en route to the title.

The first 12 minutes of the game were played in the midfield until Bowdoin's Kimmy Ganong took a shot from six yards out that went just wide of the cage at the 12:11 mark. Nearly three minutes later, Rachel Kennedy ripped a shot from the right side inside the arc that also went wide. In the 23rd minute, Ganong laced a scoring attempt from the left side that Middlebury goalie Emily Miller kicked away with her left pad.

On Bowdoin's first penalty corner of the game, Kelsey Mullaney had her first shot blocked and second attempt saved by Miller. Immediately following the corner, Middlebury quickly transitioned the length of the field. A pass from the right by Pam Schulman was tipped by a Bowdoin defender, as the ball was collected in the center of the circle by Middlebury's Grace Jennings. The first-year Panther took a couple dribbles to her left and ripped a shot to the near post past a diving Clara Belitz at 25:45 for her seventh goal of the season. Middlebury took the one-goal lead into halftime, with Bowdoin holding an 8-3 shots advantage.

In the second half, the Panthers recorded a string of four penalty corners during a three-minute stretch, but four shots couldn't find the back of the Polar Bear cage. Middlebury kept up the pressure, and on its sixth penalty corner in the 50th minute, Annie Leonard's reverse sweep hit a Bowdoin stick, popped up into the air and was turned away by Belitz with her blocker.

Bowdoin drew a pair of penalty corners in the 59th and 60th minutes, but Miller saved shots by both Kennedy and Ganong. In the 62nd minute, Bowdoin turned up the heat with a pair of attempts, the best coming from Liz Znamierowski whose shot after a rebound hit the right post and ricocheted away.

The Polar Bears could not muster any quality scoring chances in the final minutes as Middlebury held on for the win.

Bowdoin finished with a 17-14 edge in shots, while Middlebury won the penalty corner battle by a 9-5 count. Miller finished with six saves in goal to earn her eighth shutout of the season. Belitz made three stops for the Polar Bears. The shutout was the 10th of the season for the Panther defense, which allowed just one goal in four NCAA Tournament games.

Anna Kenyon, Schulman, Lauren Berestecky were each named to the all-tournament team, while Bridget Instrum was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

This was the second NCAA Championship game meeting between the two schools, with Bowdoin taking home the title in 2007. The teams had met twice earlier this season as Bowdoin emerged with 2-1 wins on both occasions, including the NESCAC Championship game. Panther head coach Katherine DeLorenzo now owns a 231-53 (.813) record at Middlebury spanning 15 years and a 326-117-2 (.734) mark overall guiding the Panthers to six of the program's eight trips to the final four during her tenure.