Field Hockey: Panthers Win NESCAC Title, Beat Tufts 3-2

Courtesy Middlebury Sports Information

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s Marissa Baker tucked in a loose ball with 3.9 seconds left in overtime, lifting the top-seeded Panthers (17-1) to a 3-2 victory over third-seeded Tufts (14-4) in the NESCAC Championship on Sunday. The title was the third straight for Middlebury and the sixth in the last eight years. The Panthers, who have won 34-straight home games, receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will wait for their opponent when the field is announced late Sunday evening. Tufts hopes to earn an at-large bid to the tournament.

After an uneventful first quarter that didn’t see either team get a shot on goal, things picked up in the second stanza. The hosts opened the scoring 1:11 into the new frame, taking advantage of their second penalty corner in a span of nine seconds. Erin Nicholas slid a pass across the penalty arc to the left side, where Emma Johns fired in her second goal in as many days and fifth of the season.

Tufts knotted the score at 1-1 with 8:39 on the clock, as Marin Waddington carried the ball to the end line and had her centering pass redirected into the Panther cage by Alexis Chauvette. Middlebury had a chance to jump back in front minutes later on a rush up the left side by Danielle Brown, but her low shot was denied by Jumbo goalie Andie Stallman.

The Jumbos took their first lead of the contest 2:13 into the third stanza when Beth Krikorian’s long hit was tipped inside the shooting arc by Gillian Roeca for her team-leading 11th tally of the fall.

In the final quarter, Tufts held off three Panther penalty corners in a span of 17 seconds in the opening minutes, but the hosts ended up getting the equalizer just short of the midway point. Brown’s initial shot was stopped by Stallman, but Katie George was there to knock in the rebound with 8:29 left in regulation. Middlebury’s defense held its ground the rest of the way fending off three Jumbo penalty corners in addition to a two-minute penalty, setting up the dramatic finish in overtime.

Middlebury held a territorial edge in the extra 10-minute session and made a final push in the waning seconds that paid off. Johns fired a shot from inside the arc that got knocked down, which went right to Baker who netted the game winner.

Grace Harlan earned the win for the Panthers without registering a save, while Stallman had four stops for Tufts.

Middlebury held a 10-4 advantage in shots and doubled up the Jumbos in penalty corners 8-4.