Middlebury Blanks Williams In NESCAC Semifinals

Olivia Miller picked up her team-leading seventh assist in the win over Williams on Saturday.
Olivia Miller picked up her team-leading seventh assist in the win over Williams on Saturday.

Second-seeded Middlebury (13-1-2) earned a spot in the NESCAC Championship for the second-straight fall, as the Panthers posted a 2-0 shutout over third-seeded Williams (9-5-2) on Saturday in a match played at Tufts. Middlebury will defend its title on Sunday at 1:00 p.m., facing No. 4 Amherst, who knocked off the top-seeded Jumbos 3-0 earlier in the day. The winner of tomorrow's title game receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Williams had a quality scoring chance just over five minutes into the contest when Aspen Pierson collected a ball from 15 yards out that she fired high of the net. The Panthers had a good flurry midway through the frame, as Eliza Robinson had her shot from inside the penalty area blocked by a defender, before Eph goalie Chelsea Taylor snared Simone Ameer's follow-up bid.

Middlebury claimed a 1-0 lead with 24:22 expired when Olivia Miller lofted a long pass into the left side of the Williams' penalty area. Gretchen McGrath used her speed to beat a defender and the keeper to the ball and poked in a shot for her fifth tally of the fall. The Ephs had one final chance to tie the contest before the half on a chance from inside the area by Victoria Liano, but Panther goalie Eva Shaw smothered the shot.  

Pierson used a good effort 13 minutes into the second frame to create a scoring bid, directing a shot from the right side that Shaw collected. Minutes later, the Panthers had a good opportunity when Eliza Van Voorhis fired a long shot from the right side that went just wide of the left post. Williams came close again in the 66th minute, as Claire Tolliver intercepted a low goal kick, settled the ball and laced a shot over the crossbar.

Middlebury tacked on an insurance goal on a play that originated on a corner kick. Robinson served the ball into the goalmouth, where Isabelle Hartnett headed in her second tally of the season with 21:52 remaining. Tolliver nearly cut the deficit in half for the Ephs eight minutes later, lacing a rising shot from the left side off the post. Liz Girvan repeated that result for Williams in the final 10 minutes, putting another scoring chance off the left post, keeping the final margin at 2-0.

Shaw recorded four saves for her third shutout of the season, while Taylor had a pair of stops for the Ephs. Williams held a 15-8 shots advantage in the game and a 6-3 edge in corner kicks.