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Monday, May 29, 2023

Field Hockey Continues Domination of NESCAC

Author: Emily Berlanstein Staff Writer

In the words of Joe Paterno, "the will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital." The Panther field hockey team certainly had the will to prepare last week, as they split a pair of games, falling to Vermont adversary St. Michael's 3-1 and defeating conference foe Trinity 2-0 in an extremely physical match-up. Both contests were true tests of the Panther squad's persistence and fortitude, warming them up for Saturday's NESCAC semifinal versus Amherst.

The NCAA Division II Purple Knights had a definite advantage over the Panthers before either team stepped onto the field. The Knights are allowed, by Division II rules, to practice year-round. The majority of their team members are exclusively field hockey players, while the Panthers carry many multi-sport athletes.

However, Middlebury did pose a threat behind Julia Bergofsky '02's goal which cut the St. Michaels' lead in half with 27:48 remaining in the game. Unfortunately, the Knights retaliated less than five minutes later, securing them a 3-1 win. Although their offense was strong, the victory for St. Michael's was a product of their ability to shut down Panther one-on-ones and two-on-ones in front of the goal cage. Middlebury's signature lead players could not outmaneuver St. Michael's veteran goalkeeper Meghan Scalley.

The Trinity game was quite a different story for the valiant Panthers. The Bantams relied on their aggressiveness to out-muscle the Panthers, but Middlebury's defense and effective scoring techniques allowed them to emerge victorious.

Strong efforts from Becca Brakeley '04 and Fitzgerald managed to stop threatening Bantam breakaways in the backfield. However, it was Bergofsky who truly jump-started the offensive with her goal just three minutes into the game. From the middle of the circle, Bergofsky released the shot from her stick and sent it flying at top speed into the corner, where it stuck between the net and post.

The rest of the game was a hard-fought battle, but Middlebury maintained the upper hand. Trinity missed a penalty stroke, and Char Glessner '03.5 was successful on one. In addition, Abigal Lamb '04, in her second game back from injury, was a strong presence at the center forward position. Connecting with Missy Krempa '04, who played a defensive left wing position, the two were able to effectively outmaneuver Trinity defenders. In the midfield, Billie Goldman '02 was responsible for face-guarding the Bantam's top athletes and completely shutting them down.

Coming off of this rewarding victory, the Panthers are psyched to face-off against Amherst on Saturday at 11 a.m. They have been gearing up for this game by practicing 16-yard hits in particular and focusing on executing quick transitions. Their goal is to keep the ball in their possession as much as possible and use every opportunity to their advantage. The Panthers have also implemented a number of new corners, which should provide for offensive excitement. On Sunday, the winners of the Middlebury/Amherst game and the Williams/Bowdoin game will face one another for the NESCAC championship on Kohn Field at noon. Look for the Panthers to turn on the intensity, as they are surely well prepared.