Field Hockey Stays Perfect, Preps for Showdown with Polar Bears

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Field Hockey Stays Perfect, Preps for Showdown with Polar Bears

By Fritz Parker

The Middlebury field hockey team extended their perfect start to the 2014 season this weekend, dispatching conference foe Connecticut College by a score of 4-1 on Saturday, Sept. 13 before handily defeating Smith College on Sunday.

Entering the road matchup against Conn. College with a 2-0 record on the season, the Panthers yielded what would be the only goal they would allow over the entire weekend to start the game. The Camels’ Berklee Vaillancourt was able to slip a dribbling shot past Panther goalkeeper Emily Knapp ’15 to give her team the early lead.

From that point on, however, it was all Middlebury.

First-year Hollis Perticone ’18 returned fire for the Panthers, deflecting a feed from Anna Kenyon ’16 into the back of the cage to knot the score at one apiece. Tri-captain Cat Fowler ’15 followed up seven minutes later with a two-on-one goal to give Middlebury a 2-1 advantage going into the halftime break.

“We always say that we want to play a possession game and grab the momentum early in the game, and keep that momentum throughout the whole 70 minutes of the game,” Fowler said.

In the second half, Middlebury wasted little time adding to their lead, as Midfielder Caroline Knapp ’18 scored just 50 seconds into the period. 

Fowler’s second goal of the game stretched the Panther lead to 4-1, where it would stay until the closing whistle.

Middlebury dominated the game in every statistical category, holding a 20-9 advantage in shots while earning eight more penalty corners than Conn. College. The Camels took the loss despite the resilient play of goalkeeper Ryley Van der Velde, who recorded 12 saves on 16 shots faced.

Back in action on Sunday, Middlebury travelled to Smith for an out-of-conference matchup with the host Pioneers. The game proved to be a one-sided affair, with the Panthers scoring early and often en route to a 9-0 shutout victory over the Pioneers.

Lauren Berestecky ’17 shined in the first half against Smith, scoring two goals in the first six minutes to help Middlebury to an early 2-0 lead. 

After a 10-minute scoring lull, the Panthers got another pair of goals from Pam Schulman ’17 and tri-captain Alyssa DiMaio ’15 to increase the lead to four midway through the first half. 

Berestecky notched her third goal of the game to complete a first-half hat-trick before Shannon Hutteman ’16 capped the onslaught for the Panthers, who carried a 6-0 lead into the half.

Sitting on a comfortable lead, the Panthers showed in the second half that they have reloaded on the defensive end after losing several top defenders to graduation a year ago. 

Hutteman, Jillian Green ’16 and Lily Taub ’17 anchored the Middlebury unit that held Smith shotless after the break, helping the Panthers rack up a 33-4 shooting advantage in the  course of the game. 

Green also got involved on the offensive end, sandwiching her second goal of the year between scores from Kenyon and Perticone to give Middlebury their final margin of victory.

Following the weekend’s strong defensive performances, Knapp and the Panthers have allowed just two goals in over 280 minutes of play to begin the season, while scoring 24 goals of their own during that period.  Middlebury has racked up a 101-30 shooting advantage over their opponents in those four games.

That streak will be put to the test this Saturday, Sept. 20, when Middlebury hosts fellow perennial NESCAC favorite, Bowdoin in a critical early-season matchup. 

The Bowdoin game will also be a rematch of last year’s conference championship game, in which the Panthers came back to force overtime before a goal from DiMaio gave them the NESCAC crown. The Polar Bears – who enter the showdown with a similarly unblemished record of 2-0 – will certainly have that game on their minds as they step onto Kohn field for the first time in 2014.

“We are all looking forward to playing Bowdoin, as they are our biggest rivals,” Fowler said. “We want to go into the Saturday matchup confident but humble.”

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