Courtesy Middlebury Sports Information
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - The Middlebury field hockey team scored the game's only goal late in the first half, as the Panthers posted a 1-0 shutout over Tufts in the NESCAC Championship Game on Sunday. The title was the sixth in program history and the fifth in the last seven seasons. The top-seeded and second-ranked Panthers (17-1), who have won 21-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. The Jumbos (16-2) eye an at-large bid to the tournament with both losses coming against Middlebury.
Tufts had the first sustained threat of the contest, recording three straight penalty corners 15 minutes into the game. Gigi Tutoni had her shot from the left side saved by Panther goalie Megan Collins on the first attempt, while Sophie Schoeni had her bid blocked on the second and Melissa Manzello misfired wide on the third corner.
Middlebury nearly scored with 13:38 showing on the clock on a shot by Emma Johns, but a big defensive save by Issy Del Priore kept the game scoreless. The Panthers eventually grabbed a 1-0 lead on a play that started on a penalty corner. Marissa Baker gained possession at the top of the arc and sent a pass to Johns on her left, who fired a shot past Jumbo keeper Andie Stallman with 4:02 left in the half.
Midfield play dominated the early stages of the second half, with the Panthers getting the first scoring chance of the fresh stanza. Erin Nicholas weaved her way through the Tufts' defense and swept a shot on goal that Stallman kicked aside.
Tufts pressed for the equalizer in the final 10 minutes, but Middlebury's defense held its ground. The Panthers withstood a five-minute yellow card when they played a player down and held off three penalty corners in the final two minutes. The best chance for thee Jumbos came on the final attempt, as Beth Krikorian's shot went wide of the right post with four seconds remaining.
Collins and Stallman each finished with a save, as the teams were deadlocked in shots at 9-9. Tufts held a 10-4 advantage in penalty corners.