The past two weekends, the bleachers have overflowed at Peter Kohn field. Fans flocked to the field, in rain and shine, as the field hockey team took on opponents first in the NESCAC Championship and then in the NCAA Tournament.
At each game, alums, parents, students, professors and locals gathered, many with dogs in tow, to cheer for the undefeated and seemingly unstoppable Panthers.
Ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division III field hockey, Middlebury had the privilege of hosting the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament last weekend, playing Endicott (unranked) on Saturday and Tufts (No. 7) on Sunday. Field hockey earned a first-round playoff bye due to their record.
Over one hundred fans braved the cold and gray weather on Saturday to cheer as the Panthers went up against Endicott. While the rules of the game were a mystery to many spectators, parents and veterans of the sport filled them in, banding together in school spirit with a heavy dose of enthusiasm.
There was no confusion on the sidelines, however, when defender Riley Marchin ’22.5 scored her first career goal, the third of the game for the Panthers. After receiving the ball from Katherine Lantzy ’25, who was on the far left of the circle, Marchin carried the ball into the circle and reverse swept the ball into the back of the goal.
Marchin, who has been a strong link in the Panther’s dependable defensive line this season, described herself to The Campus as a “pass the ball to the people whose job it is to score goals” type-player. The team embraced Marchin as the sidelines went wild.
Her smile was visible from the bleachers as she pumped her fist in the air and ran to embrace goalie Grace Harlan ’22.5.
The Panthers dominated play for the duration of the game with two more goals put on the board for the team by midfielder Sadie LeStage ’24, who was assisted by Lilly Branka ’24.5, and by three-time NESCAC Player of the Year, Erin Nicholas ’22.
While the Panthers breezed through the game against the Gulls on Saturday, they put the crowd through an emotional rollercoaster on Sunday as they battled the Jumbos for a spot in the final four.
The Panthers didn’t put up their first goal until there were just 3:59 minutes left in the first half, as Audrey Lazar ’23 finished off a play started by Nicholas. As the crowd grew, the Panthers took possession of the ball from the Jumbos and increased their shots on goal. Grace Murphy ’22.5 found her groove in the second half of the game, making a number of strong carries down the field and through the opponents. With 9:49 left on the clock, the Panthers were awarded a penalty stroke which Nicholas fired to the bottom left corner of the cage. The goal was her 24th of the season.
The Jumbos didn’t record a single shot on goal all game, an unusual occurrence. Charlotte Marks ’23.5 and Joan Vera ’22 thwarted Tufts’ offensive efforts as the match wore on, helping the Panthers add a sixth6th shutout to their record.
With the win, the Panthers are set to play Rowan University on Saturday in the final four. The match will be hosted by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
If the team goes on to win the national championship, the seniors, Danielle Brown ’21.5, Isabel Chandler ’21.5, Selin Everett ’21.5 and Nicholas will have won four national titles, one for each season of their careers. It will be the third national championship for Joan Vera as well as Febs Harlan, Murphy, Hannah Sullivan and Marchin.
The NCAA Tournament National Championship Finals will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 21, at Trinity College.
The 2021 NESCAC Field Hockey awards, which are voted by the coaches in the conference, were announced on Nov. 10. Of the four awards announced, three of them went to the Panthers.
Midfielder Erin Nicholas was named NESCAC Player of the Year for the third year in a row. Nicholas is the first NESCAC athlete to earn the award three seasons in a row. Nicholas was named NESCAC Rookie of the Year at the end of her first season in 2017.
Midfielder Amy Griffin ’24.5 was named Rookie of the Year with ten assists in conference play. The award was previously given to Katie George in 2019 and Erin Nicholas in 2017.
Coach Katharine DeLorenzo also made NESCAC history in earning the NESCAC Coach of the Year award for the fourth season in a row.
Four Panthers, Charlotte Marks, Katie George, Erin Nicholas and Isabel Chandler, were named to All-NESCAC teams.