NCAA Final: Middlebury 2, Tufts 0

Middlebury - 2018 NCAA Division III National Champions
Middlebury - 2018 NCAA Division III National Champions

Courtesy of Middlebury Sports Information

MANHEIM, Pa. - Middlebury won its fourth NCAA Championship and second straight after a 2-0 win over Tufts in an all-NESCAC title game on Sunday at Spooky Nook in Manheim, Pennsylvania. The second-ranked Panthers finish the season with a school record 21 wins against just one loss. The No. 4 Jumbos end their year at 19-3, with all three losses coming at the hands of the Panthers. The national title is the 36th for Middlebury College since 1994.

Tufts had a good opportunity on a penalty corner 8:30 into the game, but Beth Krikorian's blast was kicked out by Middlebury goalkeeper Megan Collins.

The Panthers got on the board at the 12:47 mark on a penalty-corner goal. Marissa Baker's shot from the top of the circle was blocked before Erin Nicholas gathered the rebound and scored from seven yards out on the right side for the 1-0 edge.

The Jumbos nearly tied the game at the 20:35 mark, but Gigi Tutoni's tip on a feed from outside the circle hit the left post.

Tufts earned five penalty corners between the 14 to 22-minute marks, but the Panther defense smothered each of them, allowing only a few shots.

The Jumbos had their seventh penalty corner of the half with time expired, but Middlebury stood tall and hung onto its 1-0 lead heading into the halftime break.

Early in the second half, the Panthers turned up the pressure with a pair of penalty corners. Molly Freeman nearly doubled the advantage, but her tip was denied by a defensive save from Issy Del Priore.

Tufts was driving toward the goal with 22:50 and 14:00 left in the half, but Panther defender Olivia Green stuffed both opportunities.

Nicholas gave the Panthers some breathing room with 10:59 remaining on a great individual effort. After beating four Tufts defenders down the field, she scored with a hard reverse sweeping shot from eight yards out on the left side. The goal was her team-leading 17th of the season and fifth of the NCAA Tournament.

Tufts had a couple of shots on goal in the final seven minutes, but Collins denied one with a pad save, while Kelly Coyle had a defensive block with 2:15 remaining.

The Jumbos held a 12-9 shots advantage in the game and led 9-5 in penalty corners. Collins finished the contest with five saves for the Panthers, while Andie Stallman had three stops for Tufts.

Nicholas, Collins, Emma Johns, and Baker were named to the All-Tournament team, while Grace Jennings earned Most Outstanding Player honors. Rachel Hamilton and Fallon Shaughnessy represented Tufts on the All-Tournament team.

NOTES: This was the fourth all-NESCAC NCAA Final and the ninth-straight year a NESCAC team has been in the championship game. The Middlebury seniors end their careers with three NCAA titles (2015, 2017, 2018), as the school also took home the title in 1998. The Panthers set a new record with their 11th shutout of the season and won their 14th-straight postseason game. Middlebury also became the first school to repeat as champions since Bowdoin accomplished the feat in 2007-08. This marks Tufts third time finishing as the national runner-up, including 2016 and 2008.