The Comeback Kids of Women’s Lacrosse

By HEATHER BOEHM

The women’s lacrosse team loves to grind out wins in the second half, almost as much as they love keeping their fans on the edge of their seats. And, this weekend, they definitely gave their fans an emotion-filled 60 minutes of play, when they fought past Tufts and Hamilton to secure two crucial Nescac victories.

The Panthers opened the weekend by coming from behind to defeat No. 8 Tufts 15–10 on Saturday, April 21, the second game in a row in which they came back against a top-10 opponent. They closed out the weekend by charging past Hamilton 20–11 at Kohn Field on Sunday, April 22.

With the two wins, Middlebury vaulted past Tufts in the conference standings into a tie with Amherst for first place. If the Panthers won at Williams on Wednesday, April 25, after the newspaper went to print, they won the Nescac regular-season championship and earned the top seed in the conference playoffs.

The Panthers were in high spirits as Vermont hinted at its first signs of spring this Saturday, with sunny 50-degree temperatures. This energy translated onto the field, but it was only after a slow start that the Panthers truly dominated.

Tufts came out firing, scoring five of the first six goals of the competition to take a 5–1 lead 15 minutes into Saturday’s game. The scoring started almost five minutes into the game, when Dakota Adamec stole the first goal off a free-position shot. After Tufts doubled their score, Emma McDonagh ’19 netted her first of five goals, narrowing her team’s deficit by one.

But Tufts came right back, driving home three goals in just over six minutes to take that large early lead. On their home field, where they had not lost all season, and with a four-goal lead, the Jumbos had the Panthers on the ropes early on.

Middlebury countered two straight goals, but Tufts quickly discounted those goals and then some by tallying four of the next five goals to build what would their largest lead of the contest, 9–4.

McDonagh gave Middlebury some momentum going into the halftime locker room by scoring her second goal with 3:34 left in the half, and Tufts led 9–5 at halftime.

For the third game in a row, Middlebury trailed at halftime, and the four-goal deficit was the largest of the three.

“KP (Coach Kate Livesay) always calls us the second-half team,” said Hayden Garrett ’20. “We’ve really embraced it, because we know we can make a comeback or increase our lead going into the next 30 minutes of play. But our goal for this week, going into Nescacs, is to transform [ourselves] into a two-half team. We know we are capable of this because being a second-half team also tells us that we can outlast anyone — we are confident and fitter than our competition. But this also tells us that we should be able to do this right from the first whistle.”

Coach Livesay was absolutely correct about Saturday afternoon.

The Panthers quickly penetrated the Jumbo defense, scoring the first six goals of the period. In a matter of 15:33, Middlebury went from behind by four to up by two goals on the back of McDonagh, who notched her third, fourth and fifth goals in that span.
After McDonagh’s fifth and final goal, Tufts got one back to cut Middlebury’s lead by one, but that was as close as the Jumbos would get. Georgia Carroll ’18, Kate Zecca ’20, Jenna McNicholas ’19 and Hollis Perticone ’18 each scored to close out an emphatic 15–10 Middlebury victory, giving Tufts its second loss in the Nescac and eliminating the Jumbos from contention for the top seed in the conference.

The next day, the Panthers brought in a win on their senior day on Sunday, April 22 at Kohn Field.

The women excitedly celebrated all five of their strong graduating class: Evie Keating ’18, Claire Russell ’18, Alex Freedman ’18, Carroll, and Perticone.

Once again, the Panthers only got rolling well into the second half on Kohn Field. In a high-scoring first half, Middlebury took an 11–9 lead over Hamilton (3–7 in the Nescac), led by Carroll’s three goals.

Livesay must have given a strong halftime speech, based on Middlebury’s performance coming out of the break. They scored nine of the 11 goals in the second stanza to put away the visiting Continentals.

A rotation of three goalies protected the cage well enough to lift Middlebury to victory. In the first half, Julia Keith ’20 prevented two key balls from getting past her, while in the second half Kate Furber ’19 made another appearance in goal, rejecting three shots. Alex Freedman ’18 won some playing time after Furber.

Carroll, McDonagh, and Perticone scored hat tricks during the matchup. Susana Baker ’19 was the defensive heroine, forcing three turnovers and picking up five ground balls.

“It was great to celebrate our seniors this weekend,” said Winslow Ferris ’20 afterwards. “It was fun to see some seniors get playing time that normally don’t start. Claire Russell had her first goal of the season, and Alex Freedman made an incredible save in goal. We know that this year we were lucky to be playing under such great senior leadership, on and off the field, and will miss them a lot next year.”

After yesterday’s game at Williams, Middlebury sets its eyes on Nescacs, which begin on Saturday, April 28. If the Panthers won yesterday, they will be the one seed in the playoffs. If they lost and Amherst lost to Trinity, Middlebury will be the one seed. Otherwise, Amherst will be, and Middlebury will be the second seed.

“We are confident going into our game on Wednesday,” Garrett said. “Looking ahead, we are also really excited and grateful to prolong our season past Wednesday’s game. Playing alongside these girls this season has been incredible. It truly is the first team I have ever been on where I feel like our entire unit is a family.”

Regardless of Wednesday’s result, Middlebury will have a home game in the quarterfinals on Saturday, April 28.

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The Comeback Kids of Women’s Lacrosse