Courtesy Middlebury Sports Information
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury will make its 11th trip to the final four after a 4-1 victory over Kean (19-4) in an NCAA Regional Final on Kohn Field. The two-time defending champions will take on Salisbury in one semifinal on Saturday, November 23, while John Hopkins will face Franklin & Marshall. The winners will meet on Sunday for the national title. The second-ranked Panthers improve to 19-1 on the season with the win.
Middlebury took just 41 seconds to get on the board as Katie George scored her team-leading 12th goal of the season, putting home a rebound after a shot from Julia Richards had been saved.
Meg Fearey put the hosts up 2-0 with her fourth goal of the year, this one coming on a penalty corner. After a shot from Emma Johns had been saved, Fearey tucked home the rebound on the near post.
The lead grew to 3-0 8:59 into the game when Marissa Baker scored from just inside the top of the circle with a high shot after a feed from Richards. The tally was Baker’s seventh of the season.
Kean had a pair of penalty corners with 5:00 left in the period, but the Panther defense snuffed out the opportunities.
The Cougars’ best chance to score in the opening half came 2:05 into the second quarter, but Melissa Way’s breakaway attempt was thwarted by Panther keeper Grace Harlan.
George nearly increased the Middlebury lead early in the third quarter, but her shot hit the right post. On the ensuing penalty corner, Johns made it a 4-0, after a great series of passes resulting in an assist for Fearey. The goal at the 34:20 mark was the sixth of the season for Johns.
Kean got on the board 4:21 later when Ja’Carra Jackson converted an aerial pass from Peyton Mann into the right side of the cage.
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter as the Panthers came away with the win. Middlebury held a 17-4 shots advantage in the game and a 5-3 edge in penalty corners. Harlan finished the contest with two saves, while Belly Reynoso made nine stops for the guests.
The victory was the 36th-straight win at home for the Panthers and the 10th-straight win in NCAA Tournament play.