The first-ranked Middlebury field hockey team saw its season come to a sudden end this Sunday, Nov. 11, as an overtime goal from DePauw’s Paige Henry helped the Tigers to an upset win, eliminating the Panthers from the NCAA tournament in the quarterfinal round. Middlebury defeated Skidmore 6-2 the day before in NCAA second-round action.
Middlebury jumped ahead early in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Skidmore on Saturday, Nov. 10, as Lauren Greer ’13 found the back of the cage off of a penalty corner insert to give the Panthers the lead. Cat Fowler ’15 put back her own rebound for a score to make the lead 2-0. After the Thoroughbreds scored their first goal, Fowler corralled a Greer rebound and shot it past the Skidmore goalkeeper for her second of the game. Greer then converted a feed across the middle from Fowler to give Middlebury a 4-1 lead going into the half.
Coming out of the break, Skidmore scored to draw within two, but a goal from Anna Kenyon ’16 on a feed from Greer put the Panthers back up by three. Greer’s third goal of the game rounded out the scoring for Middlebury, as they advanced to face DePauw – an overtime winner over Utica – in the quarterfinal round.
Cassie Coash ’15 commented on the team’s strong defense.
“In terms of defensive strategy, we still played the same game with our transfers and use of our back passes,” said Coash. “I think we did well on defense in both the NESCAC tournament and NCAA games.”
Greer’s three goals and assist for the game gave her 37 goals and 88 points on the year, breaking her own single-season school records for both. She already held the school’s career mark for both goals and points. Fowler’s 17 assists for the season are also a new school record.
Back in action against DePauw, Middlebury controlled the game from the opening whistle, taking a 1-0 lead on a goal from Greer, with both Alyssa Dimaio ’15 and Ellie O’Brien ’14 assisting. The Panthers held an 11-0 advantage in penalty corners in the half and would launch 13 shots on the Tiger goal while holding DePauw shotless, but were not able to score again. Tiger goalkeeper Maggie Steele recorded seven saves in the first half to keep her team in the game, as they went into halftime trailing only by one.
In the second half, Middlebury continued to hold advantages in possession and shots, but were again unable to convert. DePauw was able to get on the board with 13 minutes left to play when they collected a rebound and put it past Panther goalkeeper Madeline Brooks ’13 to even the game at one apiece.
Middlebury had several chances to win in the game’s final minutes, including a blast from Fowler which went just wide of goal, but wasn’t able to score, sending the game into extra time.
In sudden-death overtime, the Panthers immediately found themselves on the defensive end, as three early DePauw penalty corners provided the Tigers with several scoring opportunities.
Five minutes into the period, DePauw’s Paige Henry launched a hard shot past Brooks, sending her teammates onto the field in celebration and stunning the previously unbeaten Panthers.
Steele finished the game with 13 saves to lead DePauw, who will be making their first ever trip to the NCAA final weekend.
Middlebury finishes the year with a record of 18-1, while failing in their quest for the team’s first NCAA championship since 1998. The Panthers’ four seniors have seen the team’s record improve over each of their four years, culminating with an NCAA runner-up finish last season and this year’s NESCAC crown, the program’s first since 2003. The team has also qualified for NCAA tournmanet play in each of the last four seasons.
“I am very proud of what our team has accomplished this year,” said Greer. “We created an unbelievable amount of momentum from the very beginning of the season and just rode with it. We set out to compete and win games and we ended up winning 18 in a row.”
Greer finishes her career as Middlebury’s all-time scoring leader with 111 goals and 267 points. Last year’s national player of the year, she will merit strong consideration for that title again this season.
The team finishes the year with a host of school team records: goals in a season (100), shutouts (nine) and consecutive games without allowing a goal (eight). Brooks’ record-breaking goals-against average of 0.68 speaks to the all-around dominance that this team has displayed throughout the season, as they outscored their opponents 100-17 on the year.
Greer, however, looks beyond the Panthers slew or records as she reflects on the season.
“Most importantly, I think, is that every day we had fun playing,” said Greer. “That’s how we were successful.”