The Middlebury field hockey team won its third NCAA championship, and second in three seasons, with a 4-0 win over top-ranked Messiah (22-1). The title game took place at Trager Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville. The second-ranked Panthers finish their season tying the school-record with 20 wins (20-2), including a NESCAC championship. Middlebury snapped the defending champions' 44-game win streak, avenging a loss in the 2016 NCAA regionals. The national championship is the 34th overall for Middlebury since 1995.
Messiah had its best opportunity of the first half at the 5:46 mark after a penalty corner by Taylor Holt. Kristin Donohue stopped the insert, before Carissa Gehman blasted a shot that hit the left post and deflected out of bounds.
The Panthers opened the scoring at the 10:20 mark following a penalty corner. Annie Leonard's initial shot was denied by Falcon goalie Shelby Landes, but Kelly Coyle collected the rebound and found the back of the cage, to make it a 1-0 game.
Middlebury doubled its lead just 3:45 later, when Grace Jennings took advantage of a Messiah turnover and intercepted a pass. Jennings then beat Landes in a one-on-one situation, before burying the ball in the bottom right of the cage for her 13th goal of the season.
The Panthers tacked on another tally in the 18th minute when Julia Richards connected with Jennings' centering feed from the left, before finding the back of the goal. The goal gave Middlebury a 3-0 lead heading into the halftime break.
Out of the intermission, the Falcons looked to get on the board at the 45:14 mark, but Karalyn Schmidt's shot hit the left post.
Middlebury capped its scoring at the 49:09 mark, after Emma Johns' initial shot was denied by Landes. Johns collected the rebound in the right corner before sending a through ball to Audrey Quirk on the left side. Quirk connected with Johns' pass and tucked the ball inside the left post.
|Middlebury athletics photo
"We certainly had our work cut out for us handling an opoponent that's won 35 of 36 straight," said Middlebury coach Katharine DeLorenzo. "But in this game today I really think we saw bits and pieces of every training session we've had all year come to life and I thought it was a beautiful performance."
Middlebury goalie Abby Furdak made six saves in goal, while Landes had four stops for the Falcons. Messiah held a slight edge in shots (12-10) and penalty corners (10-8).
"They were a phenomenal side and had an excellent game plan and executed it beautifully," said Messiah coach Brooke Good. "They absolutely pushed us and executed better than us so complete credit goes to them."
Lauren Schweppe was named the tournament's most outstanding player, while Leonard, Jennings and Furdak earned spots on the all-tournament team, along with Messiah's Kristin Donohue, Nicole Wilkerson, and Carissa Gehman.
The four-goal margin of victory was the largest in NCAA Division III championship game history. This was the fifth NCAA Tournament meeting between the two schools, with Middlebury now holding a 3-2 advantage. DeLorenzo now owns a 266-60 (.816) record at Middlebury spanning 17 years, and has guided the Panthers to 15-straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. Middlebury extended its winning streak to 16 games, the longest winning streak since 2012 and third-longest in school history. The four goals were a Panther record-high in an NCAA Championship game. This marked the first time the Falcons were shut out by a Division III team in 58 games.
The four goals that the Falcons gave up in the championship game was equaled just once this year by opponents in the season opener vs. York (Pa.). Messiah gave up one or no goals in 20 of their 23 games.