Middlebury Looks to Preserve Unbeaten Championship Record Against Dangerous Field
HADLEY, Mass. - Middlebury College, the five-time defending NESCAC Women’s Lacrosse Champions, capped off another perfect NESCAC regular season this past Saturday, earning the Panthers the top seed in the 2006 NESCAC Women’s Lacrosse Championship and the right to host the semifinals and final this weekend at Kohn Field in Middlebury, Vt. Middlebury will take on sixth-seeded Williams in the first semifinal on Saturday, May 6, at 12:00 p.m., followed by fourth-seed Bowdoin clashing with second-seed Amherst at 2:30 p.m. The 2006 NESCAC Women’s Lacrosse Championship will conclude on Sunday, May 7, with the championship match taking place at 12:00 p.m.
Middlebury (12-1, 9-0 NESCAC) battled it out with Amherst on the final day of the regular season for the top spot in the conference. Riding a nine-game winning streak entering Saturday’s contest, the Panthers were able to secure their sixth-consecutive number-one seed with an 11-3 victory over the Jeffs. Middlebury finished the season with an unblemished league record, the sixth-straight year that the Panthers have finished their NESCAC slate with a perfect conference mark. The only loss for the Panthers this season came against Salisbury back on March 22, an 8-6 setback. During Middlebury’s current 10-game win streak, the Panthers have on average outscored opponents by almost nine goals with an offense that is currently averaging 15.92 goals per game, second only to Colby in the NESCAC this season. Veteran leadership is a big part of the attack for Middlebury, as the top four point-scorers for the Panthers are all seniors. Michele Bergofsky (Exeter, N.H.) is in the midst of a stellar senior season, already more than doubling her points total from last season with a team-leading 49 on 23 goals and 26 assists. Captains Elizabeth Renehan (St. Davids, Pa.), the 2005 NESCAC Player of the Year, and Alison Perencevich (Concord, N.H.) head up the goal scorers for the Panthers. Perencevich has totaled 35 goals to date, while Renehan is a close second with 34 tallies.
Sixth-seed Williams (9-5, 4-5 NESCAC) will take on the host Panthers in the semifinals for the second-straight year. Williams advanced out of the first round on Sunday with a 17-11 win over Colby, the same Mules squad the Ephs upended last season to reach the semifinals. Last year’s semifinal match between Middlebury and Williams was the first between the two squads in NESCAC tournament history, as the Panthers defeated the Ephs 19-5 on their way to the 2005 NESCAC title. The lone meeting between the two teams came only a few days ago, with Middlebury picking up a 19-11 victory on April 26. An even 3-3 in its last six outings, Williams will need a strong showing from its offense if the Ephs wish to advance to the final for the first time ever. Leading the way offensively for Williams is the tandem of senior attack Rachel Barr (Hanover, N.H.) and rookie midfielder Britt Spackman (Newton, Mass.). Barr, a 2005 NESCAC All-Conference First Team selection, leads the league in goals with 58 markers this season, averaging an impressive 4.14 goals per game. Spackman’s 33 assists this year place her second among NESCAC players, and her 65 points (32-33-65) lead both Williams and NESCAC first year players in points.
Second-seeded Amherst (12-2, 7-2 NESCAC) has won nine of its last ten games, most recently overcoming a 7-6 first half deficit to Wesleyan on Sunday to post a 17-8 win in the first round. The Jeffs are making their sixth consecutive appearance in the semifinals, having advanced to face Middlebury in the final in each of the five previous championships. Defense has been the cornerstone for Amherst’s success this season, with the Jeffs allowing a league-low 6.95 goals per game. Sophomore goalkeeper Linda McEvoy (Rochester, N.Y.) has been a big reason behind that success, as her league-best 7.10 goals-against average places her among the nation’s leaders in that category. Up front, junior attack Alyssa Briody (Hopewell, N.J.) provides the momentum for the Jeffs. Briody, an All-Conference Second Team member a year ago, leads her squad in all offensive categories with 36 goals and 20 assists for 56 points.
Standing in the way of Amherst’s sixth-straight trip to the championship game is fourth-seeded Bowdoin (13-3, 6-3 NESCAC). The Polar Bears, winners in six of their last seven outings, made their way into the semifinals thanks to a 14-7 first round win over Tufts on Sunday. Saturday’s semifinal tilt between Amherst and Bowdoin has all the makings for a classic showdown. During last season’s semifinal matchup between the Jeffs and the Polar Bears, the first-ever between the two in the NESCAC tournament, Amherst came away with a 13-12 overtime victory, avenging a 10-7 overtime loss during the 2005 regular season to Bowdoin. In 2006, the Polar Bears took the lone regular season meeting on April 1 in Brunswick, Maine, 10-9, one of only two losses that the Jeffs have suffered this season. Bowdoin has a potent mix of offense and defense, as the Polar Bears score on average 13.56 goals while only allowing 7.56, both figures third among NESCAC programs this season. Junior midfielder Kate Donoghue (Plandome, N.Y.) currently ranks second in the NESCAC in goals with 45 markers this season, averaging 3.0 goals per game, while accumulating a team-leading 55 points. In net, rookie goalkeeper Stephanie Collins-Finn (Menands, N.Y.) holds an 8.00 goals-against average, third among NESCAC netminders, while her .552 save percentage currently leads the league.
Semifinals - Saturday, May
6 at Middlebury
No. 6 Williams at No. 1 Middlebury - 12:00 p.m.
No. 4 Bowdoin vs. No. 2 Amherst - 2:30 p.m.
Championship - Sunday, May
7 at Middlebury
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.