Women’s Lacrosse Comes from Behind to Topple Conference Rivals


Michael Borenstein



The women’s lacrosse team learned a valuable word this past weekend: grit. No. 8 Middlebury clawed its way back to a victory after being down by four goals to Nescac rival No. 11 Trinity twice on Saturday, April 14. The Panthers kept their home crowd on their toes in what made for an exciting, and at times too exciting, game ending with a 14–8 score in the host’s favor. And they bounced back from their first Nescac loss to Colby last weekend, when the Mules dominated the Panthers in at the beginning of both halves on their way to a 14–12 upset.

The back-and-forth affair was another storied matchup between two of the Nescac’s perennial powerhouses in women’s lacrosse, since the two programs have combined to win 13 of the 17 Nescac championships in conference history. Not coincidentally, Kate Livesay ’03 played on three of Middlebury’s eight championship teams, from 2001 to 2003, then coached Trinity to four of its five championship teams, before returning to Vermont to capture one at her alma mater in 2016 in her second year as the Panthers’ head coach.

“Trinity has been one of our rivals over the years, so this game has a special place in our hearts,” said Hayden Garrett ’20. “Kate Livesay came back to Middlebury after coaching at Trinity for a number of years, so there’s yet another thing fueling us to beat Trinity. This year’s sideline was the most enthusiastic sideline I have ever been a part of, and I know that being loud helps fuel everyone on the field. The momentum of goal after goal in the second half allowed us to keep pushing until we left the field with 10 unanswered goals.”

Trinity has had the slight edge in the previous five seasons of this matchup, taking five out of the eight games during that time, but Middlebury won the only matchup last season 10–9 in double overtime and avenged a regular season loss two years ago with wins in the Nescac and NCAA championship games.

The Panthers got off to a rocky start when the visitors quickly seized on the gaps in the Middlebury defense and put up four tallies in the first 10:01 of Saturday’s contest, claiming the foreign field as their own territory.

But there is a reason they play 60 minutes, not 10. Hollis Perticone ’18 fired up her teammates when she put her team on the board and got them back in the game mentally. Perticone had been out for three days of practice due to a virus, but a lack of stamina was nowhere to be seen on the field as she sparked the momentum shift for her teammates. Knowing that her games were numbered as a senior captain preparing to enter her final postseason, she would not let her sickness be an excuse for another Nescac defeat.

Kirsten Murphy ’21 continued her outstanding debut in the blue-and-white with her 15th goal of the season, and Trinity matched her goal to keep Middlebury at an arm’s length. Emily Barnard ’20 and Murphy ignored any obstacles Trinity placed in their way to bring Middlebury within one, which was as close as Middlebury got in the first half. Trinity scored once more in the first 30 minutes and led 6–4 at halftime. Before the game, Livesay certainly would not have been happy to trail by two at that point, but in that moment, she must have been thrilled after her team’s disastrous start.

The beginning of the second half reminded everyone at Kohn Field of the game’s first 10 minutes. Trinity scored the first two goals within the first nine minutes of action. But they began to relax too soon — far too soon.

Something switched in Middlebury’s mindset. It all started with Erin Nicholas ’21 scoring on a free-position shot almost midway through the second half. Murphy followed two minutes later to complete her hat trick, creating her own opportunity by breezing past multiple Trinity defenders. Perticone and Georgia Carroll ’18 then tied the score.

Less than four minutes earlier, Trinity led by four, but they would never lead again. Murphy notched her fourth goal of the game to take the lead three minutes later.

Then Perticone, looking more than healthy, assisted Casey O’Neill ’19 on her first goal of the game. Nicholas put home her ninth goal of the season to bring Middlebury ahead 11–8.

After a little more than six minutes without scoring, which seemed like an eternity after the Panthers’ scoring spree to take the lead, Middlebury’s second-leading scorer, Emma McDonagh ’19, scored her first of the game to extend the lead to four goals. Then Jenna McNicholas ’19 added insult to injury by scoring back-to-back goals in the last three minutes to cap off Middlebury’s remarkable turnaround. At the end of 60 minutes, the scoreboard read Middlebury 14, Trinity eight. And the Panthers’ comeback against their conference rivals was complete.

Middlebury’s win came without defender and two-time All-Nescac performer Evie Keating ’18, who sat out the game because of an injury. Emma Johns ’20 got some of the playing time in Keating’s absence and helped the Panthers clamp down on the Bantams in the second half.
“Evie is currently working through an SI joint injury that she sustained over spring break,” said Garrett. “Not having her on the field has been difficult, as we have had to readjust how we play our defense, but even though she is not presently on the field, her leadership is still so impactful on our team, and I know that she will be back on the field soon and it will be as if she were never injured.”

Julia Keith ’20 posted another strong start in the cage, making nine saves compared to Trinity’s four.
Not only did the win give Livesay and her team bragging rights over her former team, it also kept Middlebury ahead of Trinity in the Nescac standings. The Bantams fell to 5–3 and a fourth-place tie with Bowdoin in the conference, and Middlebury moved to 6–1, half a game behind Tufts and a game behind Amherst in the standings.

Middlebury will square off with No. 6 Tufts on their turf in Medford, Massachusetts, on Saturday, April 21, with an opportunity to leap the Jumbos and move into second place in the Nescac. In fact, the Panthers control their own destiny. If they win their last three games, they will win the Nescac regular-season championship because they beat first-place Amherst earlier this season. After their matchup against Tufts, Middlebury will host Hamilton on Sunday, April 22, in a rescheduled game from earlier this season, and then will travel to Williams on Wednesday, April 25 for the last game of the regular season.