Champions Again: Field Hockey Wins Fourth National Championship

The field hockey team celebrates after defeating Tufts 1-0 in the NESCAC Championship on November 4. The Panthers defeated the Jumbos for the third time this season in the NCAA Division III Final.

The second-ranked Middlebury field hockey team swept fourth-ranked and NESCAC runner-up Tufts in a 2-0 win under the Spooky Nook Dome in Mannheim, Pennsylvania. This was the Panthers’ fourth NCAA Division III championship win, having previously captured the title in 1998, 2015 and 2017. After defeating Rowan University 4-2 the previous day in the semifinal round, the team cruised to the fourth all-NESCAC final in Division III history, with Middlebury previously defeating Bowdoin 1-0 in 2015.

Over 400 spectators filled the dome for the first indoor championship in Division III field hockey history, with the outdoor playing fields unplayable due to the recent snowstorm. This is the 8th appearance the Panthers have made in the national championship; the team has the fourth-highest winning percentage in tournament history. Last year, the Middlebury defeated top-ranked Messiah 4-0 at the championship round in Louisville, KY. With Messiah knocked out by Johns Hopkins 3-2 in the quarterfinals on November 11, the Panthers sailed past Keene State (8-0), TCNJ (5-1) and Rowan (4-2) leading up to the final game. This is the first back-to back championship victory for an individual team since Bowdoin’s victories in 2007 and 2008.

Over 12 minutes into the game, NESCAC Player of the Year Erin Nicholas ’21 scored a goal off a blocked shot against Tufts goalie Andie Stallman. The play leading up to the goal was off a penalty corner by Isabel Chandler ’21. Nicholas is the second player in NESCAC history to be named Rookie of the Year as a first-year and Player of the Year as a sophomore.

“Every game feels like it can go either way,” head coach Katharine DeLorenzo said to the press earlier in the weekend. “We showed last year against Messiah that it’s a huge benefit for them,” she said, striving for a high-pressure game.

With 11 minutes remaining in the second half, Nicholas masterfully shot a reverse sweep shot to the right corner of the cage for her 17th goal of the season. With the Panthers up 2-0, the team maintained control towards the championship title.

In a press conference following the game, DeLorenzo attributed the team’s success to the team’s talent and sharp focus. “We have a team of warriors who understand each phase of the game well enough to really apply themselves and when you put that heart and soul and that tactical understanding together, they stay the course in preparation and in the game,” she said.

Collins commented on how much the team has grown since preseason in August.

“In August, we were 24 girls, some knew each other and some didn’t, and from then until now it’s just a different group honestly. It’s really even hard to compare,” she said.

Nicholas, the game’s only scorer, maintained a calm and relaxed mindset while relying on her teammates.

“I don’t come in thinking my goal is going to lead to a point. The goals were a team effort and I couldn’t have done it without everyone,” she commented.

Other members of the team with shots included Marissa Baker ’20, Molly Freeman ’19, Kelly Coyle ’20, Grace Jennings ’19, Danielle Brown ’21, and Emma Johns ’20. Goalie Meg Collins ‘18.5 finished the game with 5 saves against the Jumbos. Nicholas, Collins, Emma Johns and Baker were named to the All-Tournament team, while Jennings earned Most Outstanding Player honors.

This was Jennings’ third NCAA Division III championship during her four-year collegiate field hockey career.

“One of the things I love about being a forward is that you need the entire team behind you in order to do your job. You can’t get the ball unless you have an amazing team behind you,” she said.

The Panthers finished their season with a 21-1 overall record and a total of 95 goals.