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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

Top-ranked women’s lacrosse improves to 12–0, looks ahead to key matchup against Colby

Niki Mormile ’23 sprints away from Wesleyan’s Molle Greer in a 12–11 win for the Panthers. Photo courtesy of Will Costello.
Niki Mormile ’23 sprints away from Wesleyan’s Molle Greer in a 12–11 win for the Panthers. Photo courtesy of Will Costello.

There must be something in the water at Middlebury that makes women’s stick sports so dominant. 

After the field hockey team enjoyed a 22–0 season this fall and women’s hockey tallied a 27–0 record this winter, the women’s lacrosse team is off to a great start this spring with a 12–0 record. Unsurprisingly, their dominant performances on the field have earned them the No. 1 rank in Division III. The Panthers have undoubtedly had a tough schedule this season, facing seven nationally-ranked sides. In spite of these challenges, the team has scored in the double digits in every one of their games to date.

Women’s lacrosse has a rich and decorated history. With seven national championships in their trophy cabinet and ten NESCAC titles, the team is consistently a juggernaut in Division III. The Panthers have recorded four undefeated seasons, the most recent of which was in 2004. This year, the team hopes to make it five. 

After starting off strong with a 19–12 win over conference rivals Bowdoin, the Panthers recorded big wins over Connecticut College and Babson. The team only got better from there, winning by greater margins before tallying a season-best 22 goals in a rout of Plymouth State University. The Panthers faced their toughest test yet this past Saturday on a rainy day at Kohn Field, coming from behind to beat Wesleyan, 12–11. Niki Mormile ’23 scored the winning goal two minutes before time expired. The Panthers returned to their typical dominance on Sunday in a 16–7 win over Hamilton.

Attackers Jane Earley ’23 and Hope Shue ’25 have led the Panthers’ scoring exploits this season, tallying 39 and 29 goals, respectively. Earley currently leads the NESCAC in goals, while Shue set a league-high seven goals in one game in the win over Hamilton. Other stat leaders for the team include Lily Riseberg ’22 (assists), Annie Enrietto ’23 (ground balls), Kylie Wilson ’25 (caused turnovers), and Erica Barr ’22.5 (draw controls). 

With the electric pace the team has been playing at this season, one could easily forget that the Panthers have not had a proper season since they captured the national title back in 2019. With the global pandemic looming over the Middlebury campus last spring, only four of the team’s players remained on campus for the spring semester, including Kate Burke ’24.

“It’s super exciting to finally have a season,” Burke said. “It felt like we were just having preseason over and over again so everyone is just excited to be on the field.”

The lack of game experience in recent years does not seem to have fazed the Panthers at all. Burke pointed to the excellent leadership on the team as a key factor in the team’s ability to hit the ground running in the wake of the pandemic. 

“We have amazing leadership,” Burke said. “Our head coach has won a ton of awards, our captains have done a great job setting a high bar for the team, and we have leaders in all grades and positions, which is really cool to see.”

Middlebury now turns their attention to the final three games of the season, all of which are key fixtures against NESCAC opposition. Colby stands out as a tough matchup for the Panthers, as the Mules are currently 10–1 and ranked sixth in Division III. 

“It sounds a little strange, but we’ve talked about approaching every game as underdogs,” Burke added. “We know every team is coming for our number one spot and is going to bring their best, so we just have to maintain that idea of grittiness and keep our energy moving forward.”

Burke also highlighted the sense of community and camaraderie within the team as a key element of the team’s success. 

“I feel like I’m honoring the tradition of those who came before me,” Burke said, adding that many of the alumni still visit for games and practices and get to know the current players. “It’s just really special to get to play with a group of girls who love playing, and who are dedicated to the game and to each other. At the end of the day it’s not about winning, it’s about playing the sport we all love.”

Women’s lacrosse faces Colby on Kohn Field this Saturday at noon. The event will also mark the team’s senior day.

Charles Crounse

Charles Crounse '24 (he/him) is the senior sports editor for the Campus. He has previously worked as a writer and staff editor for the section. Charles is pursuing a major in environmental policy and a minor in French, and in his free time he enjoys biking, hiking, and exploring Vermont. He is also a member of the club soccer team on campus.