First-Years and Veterans Lead the Way to Women’s Lax Victory

By Heather Boehm

After having to recover from first-half deficits on consecutive weekends leading up to the Nescac playoffs, the women’s lacrosse team pledged to come out firing at the sound of the first whistle. The first-seeded Panthers did exactly that in the quarterfinals of the Nescac playoffs, jumping out to a 3–0 lead in the first 7:05 of their matchup with eighth-seeded Hamilton on Saturday, April 28, en route to a 14–5 win on Kohn Field.

Now, the Panthers will have to play a full 60 minutes against stiffer competition in their semifinal game against sixth-seeded Trinity at Kohn Field on Saturday, May 5. Trinity led Middlebury 8–4 in the team’s regular-season matchup before the Panthers stormed back with 10 unanswered goals to get a 14–8 win.

“I think that going into this Hamilton game, we knew how important it was [to] come out strong,” said Murphy. “We had some difficulty in the beginning of the last game against them, so this time we were determined to give it our all from the first whistle. We were really excited going into our first postseason game, and our energy showed on the field in our ability to get a quick start on Saturday.”

Middlebury’s three goals in the first seven minutes set the tone for the entire game on Saturday, as the Panthers outshot the Continentals 39–18 and outscored the visitors by at least four goals in each half.

Kirsten Murphy ’21 started the scoring just over two minutes into the contest. Thirteen seconds later, Hollis Perticone ’18 made the score 2–0 on a free-position shot. Then Emily Barnard ’20 scored less than five minutes later as the Panthers looked completely in control on their home field early on.

Hamilton slowed the tide momentarily with back-to-back goals, but another Murphy-fueled run put Middlebury ahead 7–2 at the halfway point. Murphy added her second and third goals of the game — her 22nd and 23rd goals of the season — and then set up Jenna McNicholas ’19, who scored Middlebury’s seventh and final goal of the first half.

Just like in the first half, the Panthers pounced on the Continentals at the beginning of the second half, scoring four straight goals to extend their run from the first half to eight straight goals, putting Middlebury ahead 11–2 and the game effectively out of Hamilton’s reach. Georgia Carroll ’18 scored three of the four goals. Hamilton came back with three goals of its own, but Middlebury closed out the game with three straight to seal a 14–5 victory, as Carroll put two more home for a game-high five goals.

Along with Carroll’s five goals, Barnard and Murphy both scored three, and Murphy assisted on four more. Murphy, in her first season at Middlebury, has scored 23 goals and assisted on a team-high 23 more. Her 23 assists place her second in the Nescac in that category, and she is second on the team in total points, behind only Emma McDonagh.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to play on this team and the chance to go in each game,” said Murphy. “I think that my stats, along with my other teammates’, reflect the depth and versatility of our team. Any given game, there is a new leading scorer, and we often have a high number of people scoring each game. This team has been extremely welcoming, and the fact that I am a first-year does not even factor into my thoughts on the field.”

Nine Panthers have scored at least 10 goals this spring. And perhaps even more telling, no Middlebury players are in the top 10 in goals scored in conference play, even though the Panthers have scored the most goals as a team.

Middlebury’s back line turned in a solid performance that is the norm for the conference’s best-scoring defense this spring. Addy Mitchell ’21 and Evie Keating ’18 held the line on Saturday. Mitchell caused four turnovers and recovered five ground balls, while Keating forced three turnovers and picked up three ground balls. Julia Keith ’20 and Kate Furber ’19 each played a half in the cage.

This Saturday’s game promises to be more of a challenge for the Panthers. Trinity surprised third-seeded Tufts to reach the semifinals and could have beaten Middlebury in their first game.

“In preparation for this weekend’s game against Trinity, I think a big focus of ours is to go hard from the start,” said Murphy. “Some of our recent games have had a slow start where we have had to come back from behind in order to win. In practice this week we’ll work on having composure but also intensity throughout the entire game.”

Middlebury aims to win its second Nescac championship in three years after an eight-season drought. If the Panthers beat Trinity on Saturday, they will play the winner of Amherst and Bowdoin on Sunday for the Nescac championship game on Kohn Field.