Field Hockey Freezes No. 14 Rochester 5–0 at Kohn to Advance to NCAA Final Four


Emma Stapleton

Annie Leonard ’18 put Middlebury ahead of Rochester 4–0 in the second half of Sunday’s contest, with her team-leading sixteenth goal of the season.


The second-ranked women’s field hockey team secured their ninth appearance to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four after breezing through last weekend’s competition at Kohn field with a pair of dominant 5–0 victories over the University of New England and Rochester. Sunday’s win over Rochester keeps the Panthers’ hopes alive for a second national title in three years, and extends their winning streak to 14 games.

Looking to build on the previous weekend’s Nescac title, the Panthers started off their NCAA tournament run by shutting out the University of New England on Saturday, Nov. 11, on Kohn Field.
The Panthers came out very strong, breaking past the UNE defense comfortably and scoring all five goals in the first 35 minutes of play. Within the first 10 minutes, Grace Jennings ’19 put Middlebury on the board by ripping a shot past the Nor’easter goalie. The Panthers were able to get a second shot by UNE before the first half came to a close. The hosts got a 2–0 lead after Julia Richards ’20 recorded her first goal of the weekend off a perfectly placed pass from Erin Nicholas ’21.

With a little more than six minutes left in the half, the Panthers buckled down and got to work. The UNE defense was no match for Nicholas, as she moved with ease to knock a goal inside the far post. Annie Leonard ’18 and Lauren Schweppe ’18 extended Middlebury’s lead closing out the first 35 minutes by tallying two more points for the Lady Panthers. This gave the Panthers a five goal lead going into halftime.

In the second half, Middlebury’s defense held strong, denying the Nor’easters an opportunity to get on the scoreboard. They only allowed UNE a single shot throughout the entire period. This victory sent the Panthers to the regional final on Sunday, Nov. 12 on home turf.

“I think a huge part of our team’s success can be attributed to how well prepared we were for the other teams,” said Ali Denby ’20. “Our coach does such a phenomenal job scouting. We knew UNE was going to come out strong and aggressive, so we were prepared to match that energy from the start. This weekend was about playing our game with some adaptations.”

After Saturday’s success, the Panthers refused to back down against Rochester. Even though the first half was scoreless until the last few seconds, Middlebury dominated the field throughout the half taking 12 shots compared to Rochester’s single shot. Richards broke the silence, giving the Panthers a one goal advantage over the Yellow Jackets heading into halftime. Her swing to the right post marks her second goal of the weekend and seventh goal of the season.

It did not take long for Middlebury to double its score. About seven minutes into the second 35 minutes, the Panther offense put pressure on Rochester as Marissa Baker ’20 forced her ninth goal of the season past the Yellow Jacket goalie. The Lady Panthers were not satisfied yet, recording three more points to close out the regional final. In the 52nd minute, Schweppe sent an assist to Audrey Quirk ’18. Nine minutes later, teammate Leonard tucked a shot past the Rochester goalie, and Emma Johns ’20 scored the fifth and final goal of the contest. This win awarded Abby Furdak ’21 her sixth career shutout.

“The teams feeling great after this weekend,” said Richards. “This is exactly where we want to be and we know exactly what we want and why we’re here.”

Middlebury will travel to Louisville, Kentucky to face 10th-ranked Franklin & Marshall in the national semifinal on Friday at 7:00 p.m. The other semifinal matchup includes Messiah and The College of New Jersey. The victors will advance to the championship round that will take place on Sunday.