Back-to-Back Champions: Women’s Lacrosse Takes the Conference

By LAUREN BOYD

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN
Jane Earley ’22 won NESCAC Player of the Week after scoring five goals in the NESCAC Championship.

The Middlebury women’s lacrosse team conquered the Tufts Jumbos for their 10th NESCAC Championship this past Sunday, 10-9. With the conference championship under their belts, the team earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, as well as a home game in their first national tournament match.

The competition started with a back-and-forth first half, as momentum changed rapidly between the elite teams. Just as Middlebury’s senior captain Emma McDonagh hit the back of the net within five minutes of the game, Tufts answered with two goals of their own. Kirsten Murphy ’21 and Jenna McNicholas ’19 countered the Tufts response, with assists from Jane Earley ’22. Tufts then regained momentum, taking back the lead right before half, 5-4.

 Tufts was able to extend its lead to three goals following halftime. Murphy and Earley then responded with two offensive strikes, eliminating the gap, and bringing the score to 7-6. Another back-and-forth stint brought the score to 9-9 with only five minutes left on the clock.

 With four minutes left in the game, McDonagh punched the final goal to seal the win, sending the Panthers into the NCAA tournament.

BENJY RENTON
The women’s lacrosse team celebrates after defeating Tufts 10-9 to win the NESCAC Championship.

Jane Earley, NESCAC player of the week for the second time this season, scored a career-high five goals against Tufts. When asked about the team’s performance, Earley dedicated her squad’s success to their composure and motivation, which not only handed them a NESCAC Championship, but a chance at a larger post-season.

 Though Tufts fell short of a NESCAC title, they earned an at-large bid into the national tournament, and did so alongside many other NESCAC teams, showing the strength of the conference. Including Middlebury and Tufts, fiveNESCAC teams filled the national bracket: Middlebury, Bowdoin, Amherst, Wesleyan and Tufts.

“I think we stayed composed, especially when Tufts went up a few goals on us. We stayed calm and slowly but steadily won back the momentum,” Earley said, “It feels amazing to share such a huge accomplishment with all of my best friends. We have worked so hard to be successful in such a challenging league and to have all of our hard work pay off was so rewarding.”

This upcoming Sunday, the Middlebury squad will either play JWU (16-4) or Morrisville State (14-5), depending on the results of the JMU vs. Morrisville first-round game on Saturday. Either way, the Panthers will be hosting the game on their home turf.

If the Panthers continue their 13-game streak of holding opponents to single digits, as well as their perfect record against nationally-ranked opponents (12-0), their journey into the NCAA tournament will be exciting and something to watch.

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