The Middlebury field hockey team advanced to the NESCAC Championship game for the eighth-straight year, as the Panthers edged Trinity 1-0 Saturday on Kohn Field. Top-seeded Middlebury (16-1), which extended its home winning streak to 20 games, advances to the finals on Sunday against the winner of the other semifinal, featuring second-seeded Tufts and third-seeded Williams. The winner of the championship game earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers put the pressure on the Bantams from the opening whistle, getting several chances in the opening minutes. Marissa Baker had the contest's first opportunity, one-timing a pass from Erin Nicholas that Bantam goalie Lori Berger made a sprawling save on. Seconds later, Middlebury's Grace Jennings got behind the Trinity defense and chipped a bouncing ball on cage, but Berger kicked the bid aside.
The hosts broke through for a goal with 24:23 showing on the clock, as Baker swept in a centering pass from Nicholas for her eighth tally of the season. Trinity nearly tied the score in the closing seconds of the half on a play that originated on a penalty corner. Chandler Solimine hit a rising shot from the top of the arc that Middlebury keeper Megan Collins swatted away.
After a long weather delay stalled the start of the second half, Middlebury eyed a two-goal lead when Jennings fired a shot from a bad angle, which resulted in a penalty corner. On the ensuing corner with just over 21 minutes on the clock, Trinity's Christine Taylor registered a defensive save on a shot by Middlebury's Kelly Coyle, keeping the difference at one goal.
Panther defender Meg Fearey made two big defensive plays in the final 10 minutes of the game stopping the Bantams' transition game. In the closing minutes, Trinity had another quality scoring chance with a penalty corner, but Collins batted a shot from the top of the arc by Caroline Curtin wide, securing the win.
Collins finished with a pair of saves for Middlebury, while Berger had five for Trinity.
Middlebury held a 14-4 edge in shots and a 12-3 cushion in penalty corners.