Top-seeded Middlebury scored three times in the opening half on its way to a 5-2 victory over eighth-seeded Colby (9-7) in a NESCAC Quarterfinal Saturday. The Panthers (15-1) will host the league's championship weekend, where the rest of the field will be determined following Sunday's other quarterfinal matchups.
The hosts raced out to the early lead, opening the scoring 3:39 into the contest. Grace Jennings intercepted a Mule pass at midfield and used her speed to create a breakaway. She slid a low shot inside the right post for a 1-0 advantage.
Colby pulled even with 24:02 on the clock, as Emily Hogan scored from close range. Middlebury countered less than eight minutes later when Meg Fearey knocked in a centering pass from teammate Erin Nicholas. The Panthers closed out the scoring with 4:46 before the half, as Marissa Baker tipped in a pass from Jennings at the right post for a 3-1 lead. That score held into the intermission thanks to a nice save by Panther goalie Megan Collins on a hard, turnaround shot Colby's Georgia Cassidy.
The Mules pulled to within a goal at 3-2 just 3:20 into the second half on a diving effort from Merrill Read, but the game immediately went into a two-hour weather delay.
Once out of the unexpected break, Middlebury netted a fourth goal eight minutes later after a loose ball hit off a Mule defender and Nicholas flipped it into the cage. They closed out the scoring with 18:15 remaining, when Jennings lifted a rebound into the upper portion of the net for her second tally of the contest.
Collins, who finished with three saves, kept the final difference at three goals, as a centering pass from the right side found its way to Read at the left post, but the Panther stepped over to thwart the one-timer.
In goal for the Mules, Riley Whitmyer registered eight saves, as Middlebury held a 19-7 advantage in shots. The Panthers also had a 10-3 edge in penalty corners.
With a goal and an assist, Nicholas extended her point streak to 12-consecutive games, picking up 10 goals and six assist in those contests.