Field hockey captures third consecutive national championship title

BENJY RENTON
The field hockey team embraced Marissa Baker ’20 after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime during the NESCAC championship against Tufts on November 10. The Panthers have now won their fifth national title in program history.

Snow fell on the turf throughout the morning, but the Middlebury field hockey team was not kept away as it captured its third consecutive national championship — its fourth in five years. This was the second-ranked Panthers’ fifth NCAA Division III championship win, having previously captured the title in 1998, 2015, 2017 and 2018.

The Panthers traveled to the final four for the 11th time in program history after receiving an automatic bid with a NESCAC championship win, securing victories against Babson (2–1) and Kean (4–1) in the regional round. Yesterday’s national semifinal was played in Manheim, Pa., where Middlebury defeated the Salisbury Sea Gulls 1–0. Off an assist from Erin Nicholas ’21, Katie George ’23 fired the ball inside the right post with 6:27 left in the third quarter. The defensive squad was able to hold off Salisbury without a shot until 7:51 remaining in regulation. Middlebury took advantage on both shots (13) and penalty corners (six).

The Panthers faced off against the Franklin & Marshall Diplomats, who advanced to the championship match for the first time since 1981 after scoring a 3–1 victory against Johns Hopkins.

After a delayed start time due to snow earlier in the morning, the game remained scoreless for the first three quarters. With 6:17 left in regulation, Marissa Baker ’20 put a low shot in against Franklin & Marshall goalie Christina Seery, off an assist from Isabel Chandler ’21. The Diplomats tried to rebound in the last few minutes of the game, earning penalty corner ending in a blocked shot. 

In addition to Baker’s game-winning shot, Isabel Chandler ’21 and Nicholas contributed to the Panthers’ nine shots. Grace Harlan ’22 spent the entire game in goal, ending with just one save on the game. This was Harlan’s ninth shutout in goal, the most for any Middlebury player in a single season.

In a press conference following yesterday’s semifinal game, head coach Katharine DeLorenzo praised the team’s high quality defense and extensive preparation. You could see every minute of preparation out there,” she said. “It’s just nice to see that your planning was good.”

George, the only scorer in the semifinal, gave insight into the team’s overarching strategy. “Going into every practice like it’s our last one, going to every game like it could be our last one, that’s something that our team fully embodies and fully takes ownership,” she said in the press conference.

Though half of the team has earned two previous national championships, Olivia Green ’20 says that the each year brings a fresh new start. “We are a completely different team,” she said. Julia Richards ’20 agreed. “We have a mentality where we’re in the moment all the time and it’s just about that specific play,” she said. “We don’t really look back to the past or to the future; we just play in the now.”

DeLorenzo praised the players’ bonds with each other and their commitment to a storied Division III field hockey program. “I think one of the beauties of this team is the buy-in I always have from the players to create things that are so fresh and energetic,” she said, claiming that “we’re not trying to recreate the same season” every year. “To see the growth, the ownership, the polish and the excited, forward-thinking and never looking back mentality is a very free disposition for a competitive athlete.”

At the conclusion of the weekend, Nicholas was recognized as the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Baker, Green and George were each named to the all-tournament team.

The Panthers finished their season with a 21–1 overall record and a total of 68 goals.