Middlebury's Jane Earley scored with 2:29 left in Saturday's contest with fifth-ranked Tufts (13-1, 8-1), lifting the Panthers to a narrow 10-9 win on a wet Kohn Field. Third-ranked Middlebury (13-1, 8-1) runs its winning streak to 13 and moves into a tie with the Jumbos for the top spot in the NESCAC standings. The Panthers can clinch the top seed in the upcoming NESCAC Tournament with a win over Williams or a Tufts loss to No. 14 Bowdoin on Wednesday.
Trailing 2-1, the Jumbos scored three-straight goals, capped by a tally from Courtney Grygiel following a scramble outside of the crease to go up 4-2 with 8:12 remaining in the first half.
Middlebury answered by scoring the game's next four goals, taking a 6-4 advantage with 28:49 remaining in the contest. The run started when Lily Riseberg guided in a loose ball that just crossed the Jumbo goal line with 5:22 on the clock. Tallies from Earley on a bouncing free-position shot and a dodge into the upper-left corner with 46.3 seconds left before the half moved Middlebury ahead 5-4 at the break. The Panthers took a 6-4 edge when a shot by Erin Nicholas was initially stopped by goalie Molly Laliberty, but the momentum carried it just over the line with 26:49 remaining.
The Jumbos leveled the score at 6-6 on a free-position tally from Emily Games that just tucked in under the crossbar 31 seconds later and a Grygiel score on a nifty shot from five yards away. Kirsten Murphy gave the hosts an 8-6 lead with goals just 15 seconds apart, including a free-position tally into the upper-left corner with an extra player. The Jumbos tied the game at 8-8 on a Maddie Norman spin move in front of the crease and Annie Sullivan on a free-position attempt while a player up.
Free-position goals by Middlebury's Grace Getman at the 10:42 mark and Tufts Claire Wright with 4:30 left made the score 9-9. The visitors won the ensuing draw control, earning another free-position attempt. Dakota Adamec took the shot, but her low attempt was stopped by Panther goalie Julia Keith on a nice save using the frame of her stick. Following a successful clear, Earley made a run from the right 20 yards away, dodging her defender and firing a high shot into the upper-left corner for the eventual game-winning goal with 2:29 left. Tufts won the draw control, but the Panther defense forced a turnover and ran out the clock for the 10-9 final score.
Earley finished with four goals to pace the home team, while Murphy earned two goals and Emily Barnard had a goal and an assist. Nicholas scored once and won four draw controls. Defensively, Emma White picked up five ground balls and caused three turnovers, while Susanna Baker picked up three rollers and caused two turnovers. Keith earned the win with four saves over 45:48 of action, while Kate Furber had a save in 14:12 of play.
Games scored twice and added two assists, while Grygiel tallied twice and Mae Briody added two assists. Lily Baldwin won a game-high six draw controls for the Jumbos, while Norman finished with three ground balls. Audrey Evers made six saves in the first half, while Laliberty made five second-half saves.
Middlebury held edges in both shots (27-16) and ground balls (20-13), while Tufts won 13 draw controls to eight for the Panthers. The Middlebury defense limited the opposition to a single-digit goal total for the ninth-straight game and the 12th time this season.