Women’s Lacrosse Upset by Colby

FACE TRINITY IN CONFERENCE HEAVYWEIGHT SHOWDOWN ON SATURDAY

By HEATHER BOEHM

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN/THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS

The women’s lacrosse team squared off with Nescac rival Colby on Saturday, April 7, on its home turf at Kohn Field. In a hard-fought battle, No. 15 Colby thwarted two Middlebury comeback attempts to defeat the No. 9 Panthers 14–12, handing them their first conference loss and knocking them out of first place in the standings.

Going into the contest on Saturday, the Panthers knew they were in for a battle, even though the Mules entered with a 1–4 Nescac mark. All four of Colby’s losses came by two goals or fewer.

The Panthers also knew Colby like the back of their hands after playing them three times last season. In 2017, they fell to the Mules in the regular season 9–6. Then, during the Nescac semifinals, they got another opportunity to topple the Mules. But they were unable to finish off any of their fast breaks past the Colby defense in a 10–9 loss.

These hard losses taught the Panthers some valuable lessons, and in the second round of the NCAA tournament, they sought revenge and ended the Mules’ season when Jenna McNicholas ’19 knocked in the game-winning goal in the final seconds to seal a 10–9 victory for the Panthers.

With these fresh memories in their minds, the Panthers and the Mules took the field on Saturday. And in the first 15 minutes of action, Colby proved they were much better than their record indicated, jumping out to a 4–0 lead before Middlebury even had a chance to blink.

Erin Nicholas ’21 got Middlebury on the scoreboard by hammering in a pass from MG Gately ’20. Her goal marked a momentum shift for the Panthers, as teammates Henley Hall ’19 and Kate Zecca ’20 followed her lead, slapping two more shots home.

With Middlebury inching its way back to a tie score, Colby increased its advantage to two when Kendall Smith scored on a free-position shot. Emily Barnard ’20 took the two-goal lead away when she found an opening and narrowed the score to 5–4. Both teams added an additional goal to their totals in the last two minutes of the first half, and Colby led 6–5 at the halfway point.

The hosts started the second period of play in a promising way. Barnard recorded her second goal of the day within seconds of the first whistle to knot the score. Despite mounting pressure in a tied conference game, the Mules passed through the usually impermeable Middlebury defense and knocked a shot past the Panther goalie a few minutes later. They continued to score four more unanswered goals to build the largest lead of Saturday’s game. Behind by five, Middlebury took a timeout.

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN/THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS

“We knew that we were much better than the way that we were playing so we took a few timeouts to collect ourselves,” said Erin Nicholas ’21 afterwards. “We knew the deficit should not have been what it was.

The Panthers put their heads down and got to work, scoring six of the next seven goals. Kirsten Murphy ’21’s goal with 3:44 remaining tied the game at 12.
“We picked up our energy and our level of play, and built off each other’s momentum,” added Nicholas. “Once we got one goal, the others came a lot easier. It got more and more exciting with each goal. The home field advantage helped a lot with fans and family and playing on our home turf was definitely more comfortable.”

The crowd at Kohn Field came alive as the Panthers fought back into the game. Both teams had multiple opportunities, but it was Colby who capitalized on two of their quick breaks and found the back of the Middlebury net twice to earn a 14–12 victory.

The loss dropped Middlebury to 5–1 in the Nescac and 9–2 overall. Barring results from last night’s late games, the Panthers are in fourth place in the conference standings, behind No. 6 Tufts and No. 4 Amherst with Tufts standing alone at the top. Colby moved into a tie with Hamilton for seventh place in the standings, as both teams sit at 2–4.

Saturday’s game demonstrated just how much parity and competition there is in the Nescac this season.

“The conference is so competitive in the way that any team could win on any given day,” said Zecca. “Unfortunately, Saturday was not our day.”

Saturday’s game is just that, though — one game — and the Panthers know there is still a lot of season left.

“We know that we are the better team,” added Zecca. “It just comes down to putting our beliefs into action. We hope to see Colby again in the postseason so that we get another chance to prove our talent, drive, and desire to win. We don’t need to change our play to beat Colby. We just need to come out strong and play our game.”

One positive from Saturday’s game was the return of goalie Kate Furber ’19 from an injury that sidelined her for the first 10 games of the season. Furber started 24 games in her first two seasons in the blue-and-white and returned on Saturday to relieve Julia Keith ’20. Keith has started all 11 games this season and played admirably in Furber’s absence, with 65 saves for the Nescac’s top defense.

Middlebury’s situation at goalie is not unlike anywhere else on the field — full of depth and ready to withstand any injury that may occur.

“Losing any member of our team, whether they start or not, is always going to have a large impact on our team,” said Zecca. “Furber has worked tirelessly to recover as quickly as possible, but her support and encouragement this past season [have] impacted our game just as much as if she were healthy and playing. One of the most powerful things about our team this year is our depth. Any member of the team can step up and perform when needed, just as Keith, and many other players, have demonstrated so far.”

Despite the hard loss, the team hold their heads up high as they remember what happened the previous year after a harsh reminder of their vulnerability. The team is excited to hopefully face the Mules again in the Nescac tournament. Next up, the Panthers take on No. 8 Trinity on Kohn Field this Saturday, April 14, at 2 p.m., in another important conference matchup against head coach Kate Livesay ’03’s former team with the opportunity to leapfrog the Bantams in the standings.

More importantly, the game will provide another tough test for Middlebury, who needs to continue to improve after having some vulnerabilities exposed last Saturday.

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN/THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS

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Women’s Lacrosse Upset by Colby