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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Fall sports update: Panthers in the NCAA Tournament

After performing well at NCAA Regionals, top runners from men’s and women’s cross country are competing in the NCAA Championship race on Saturday, Nov. 20. (Courtesy of John Kenny)
After performing well at NCAA Regionals, top runners from men’s and women’s cross country are competing in the NCAA Championship race on Saturday, Nov. 20. (Courtesy of John Kenny)

This past weekend, six fall varsity teams competed in NCAA Tournament competition. Most squads traveled out of Vermont for their matches, although field hockey, thanks to their record, hosted other schools. From cross country to volleyball, here is how each team fared:

Men’s cross country

On Saturday, men’s cross country finished second out of 26 teams at NCAA Mideast Regionals, hosted at Harkness Memorial Park in Waterford, Conn. Zander Kessler ’22.5 led the way for the Panthers, finishing seventh in the 8k contest. Teammates Drew Donahue ’25 (11th), Alec Gironda ’24 (12th) and Max Cluss ’23 (13th) paced each other and finished shortly behind. Senior captain Quin McGaugh ’22 (25th) rounded out the scoring for Middlebury. 

Williams won the event (54 points) after their top runners finished in the top three places. Middlebury was shortly behind in second (68), followed by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (82) in third. Next Saturday, the Panthers will end their season with the NCAA Championship race in Louisville, Ky.

Women’s cross country 

Women’s cross country also placed second at the NCAA Mideast Regional last Saturday. Cassie Kearney ’22, who finished second overall with a 21:46 6k, led a strong team performance. First year Bea Parr ’25 also placed well in 16th, as did Kate Kenny ’23 (21st), Morgane Orcutt ’25 (26th) and Nicole Johnson ’22 (34th).

The women’s team is also headed to the NCAA Championship race in Louisville next weekend, its last race of the season. 

Field hockey

Field hockey hosted Tufts, Endicott and SUNY New Paltz this weekend for the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday, the Panthers faced Endicott, while Tufts and SUNY New Paltz squared off. 

The Panthers opened the weekend strong, firing on all cylinders as it trumped Endicott, 5–1. Five different players scored for Middlebury: Amy Griffin ’24, Katie George ’23, Riley Marchin ’22, Sadie Lestage ’23 and Erin Nicholas ’22. Marchin scored her first career goal, and Nicholas tallied her team-leading 23rd goal of the season. 

On Sunday, the Panthers met Tufts in the regional final, the second head-to-head match of the season. From the get-go, the Panthers were resolute defensively, not allowing a single shot all game. Backed by this strong defensive performance, the Panthers were able to find two goals. At the 26-minute mark, Audrey Lazar ’23 found the back of the net, and Erin Nicholas chipped in another goal for good measure in the final minutes of the game. With the win, field hockey has now won 47 straight games on Kohn Field. 

The Panthers (20–0) will continue to fight for its fourth-straight national championship next Saturday, when they face Rowan in the national semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, Trinity College is set to play Johns Hopkins. With momentum on both sides of the ball, the Panthers will enter the final four with a great deal of confidence. 

Men’s soccer

Men’s soccer traveled to Lancaster, Pa. for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament this past weekend. The team opened the tournament with a tilt against SUNY Oneonta on Saturday and faced Franklin & Marshall College in the second round on Sunday.

In Saturday’s tightly-contested match, both teams created pressure on offense, registering a combined 32 shots. In the 87th minute, the Panthers finally broke the deadlock; Andrew Juarez ’24.5 started the play, delicately finding Jordan Saint-Louis ’24 who beat a defender and squared a pass in front of the goal to Shane Farrell ’24. The midfielder punched the home game winner, his fourth goal of the season.

The Panthers faced the No. 4 team in the country, Franklin & Marshall the following day, winning 2–0. Middlebury opened the scoring 30 minutes into the match, as Ben Powers' ’23.5 header met Casey Lund’s ’24 cross and sailed into the roof of the net. Just after half time, Jordan Saint-Louis doubled Middlebury’s lead, scoring off an assist from Brendan Barry ’22.5. Franklin and Marshall threatened with a penalty kick in the final minutes, but Ryan Grady ’23 was equal to the task, saving the shot to maintain his clean sheet. 

With the win, the Panthers (12–4–3) are off to the Sectional Semifinal round of the NCAA Tournament, where they will face John Carroll University on Friday, Nov. 19. 

Women’s soccer

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Women’s soccer traveled to Dallas, Pa. this past weekend for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers faced the University of Lynchburg on Saturday and Misericordia University on Sunday.

There was no shortage of action in Saturday’s match against Lynchburg. The Panthers jumped out to a quick 2–0 lead, with Gretchen McGrath ’21.5 and Eliza Robinson ’21.5 both finding the back of the net. But towards the end of the second half, Lynchburg laid on the pressure and scored two goals in quick succession. The comeback wouldn’t deter the Panthers, though; in the 87th minute, with the match tied 2–2, Ellie Bavier’s ’22.5 cross found Lucy Patton ’25, who fired home the game-winning goal.

Advancing to the next round, the Panthers faced the host, Misericordia University, on Sunday. Misericordia, ranked No. 4, entered the match following an 11–0 win over Bryn Athyn on Saturday, chock-full of momentum. The hosts attacked the Panthers with force from the first whistle, scoring three times en route to a 3–0 win. Misericordia’s sustained pressure helped them to a 23–14 advantage in shots and a 10–2 advantage in corner kicks. 


Volleyball traveled to Hoboken, N.J. this past weekend for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers won its first duel on Friday night, defeating Stevens Institute of Technology, 3–1, but weren’t able to defeat no. 2 Trinity University (Texas) on Saturday, losing 0–3. 

Maggie Wise ’22, Gabbie O’Toole ’25 and Kelly Ferrero ’23 all contributed big performances this weekend. Wise and O’Toole were named to the All-Tournament Team of the Hoboken Regional Bracket. Despite the loss, the Panthers (21–6) have much to be proud of this season, earning its most wins in a season since 2012, the last time they made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Blaise Siefer

Blaise Siefer ‘23.5 is a sports staff writer.

Siefer is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Spanish.

For three semesters in 2021 and 2022, Siefer served as Senior Sports Editor. He also co-founded a Middlebury sports recap podcast, PFL Weekly, which is released on all major streaming platforms every Tuesday. 

Siefer is also the Co-Founder and Co-President of Middlebury Club Soccer.