Women’s Lacrosse Advances to National Championship

By BENJY RENTON

BENJY RENTON
Jane Earley ’22 rushes past a Franklin and Marshall defender during the NCAA Regional Final on Sunday, May 19.

Under a sunny sky and 80-degree temperatures in Ashland, Virginia, the third-ranked Middlebury women’s lacrosse team defeated the eighth-ranked Wesleyan Cardinals 16-8 in the NCAA Division III semifinals. The win extended the Panthers’ winning streak to 21, the longest in the nation, and earns them a spot in tomorrow’s championship game against Salisbury. In the day’s second semifinal, Salisbury defeated Tufts 14-11.

The team traveled to the semifinals for the third time in the last four years and the 25th time since 1994. This was Wesleyan’s first appearance in the Final Four, having knocked out previous national champion Gettysburg 10-7. Middlebury entered the semifinal with 300 goals and having previously defeated Wesleyan 8-7 in the regular season.

With 90 seconds into the game, the Cardinals’ Johanna Copeland scored a goal off an assist from Abigail Horst, her 28th for the season. The Panthers did not let this 1-0 lead sit for long, with Jane Earley ’22 and Erin Nicholas ’21 scoring three goals together in the span of 90 seconds. Earley was the only first-year on any all-NESCAC team selection, having scored a spot on the second all-NESCAC team and having been named NESCAC Player of the Week twice in the regular season. While Wesleyan scored another two goals in the first half, the Panthers extended their lead to 8-3 by halftime, with Jenna McNicholas ’19, Emma McDonagh ’19 and Kirsten Murphy ’21 contributing to the team’s success in the first half.

The second half included goals by McDonagh, Casey O’Neill ’19, Gracie Getman ’21, McNicholas, Henley Hall ’19 and Kate Zecca ’20 as the Panthers freely substituted players on and off the field. Zecca, a non-starter, had scored nine goals and two assists so far in the NCAA tournament. While Wesleyan answered Middlebury’s dominant plays with five more goals of their own, including one in the last minute, the Cardinals’ record-breaking run in the NCAA tournament was ended with Middlebury’s 16-8 victory.

Julia Keith ’20 spent all 60 minutes in goal with 5 saves. Keith is the fourth-best in the country in terms of her goals-against average, standing at 6.28.

Middlebury’s 316 goals this season constitutes a new program record, exceeding the previous mark of 312 set in both 2016 and 2018. Over this year’s spring break, Middlebury defeated Salisbury 11-6.

Earley was among the game’s highest scorers, with two goals and one assist. “Jane Earley is someone you want on your team when the game is on the line,” head coach Kate Livesay said earlier in the championship weekend. For senior captain McDonagh, having scored five goals in the semifinal, she and her fellow seniors are striving for a repeat of 2016’s NCAA Division III championship victory. “I think ever since our seniors missed graduation because they were in the national championship we’ve had it in our minds that that’s what we want to do too,” she said to the media following their win against Franklin and Marshall in last weekend’s regional final. “We’re on a roll and I think that our senior class is going to put everything out that we can but this whole team is so dedicated.”

The championship game will be streamed on NCAA.com here, starting on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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