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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Field hockey wins fifth consecutive NESCAC title

The Panthers celebrate a goal in the NESCAC championship game against Tufts.
The Panthers celebrate a goal in the NESCAC championship game against Tufts.

Dynasty. In the world of sport, this word immediately conjures images of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls or Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics. In Middlebury, the word cannot be said without thinking immediately of the field hockey team.

This past Sunday, Nov. 6, the team won its league-leading ninth NESCAC title. The win also marked the fifth straight year that the Panthers have won, making them the first team in the conference to do so. None of the current members of the team have even played a season of collegiate field hockey without winning the NESCAC title.

The Panthers started their season in typically dominant fashion, recording big wins on the road against Castleton and divisional rivals Amherst. The team continued to brush aside opponents, outsourcing their opponents 55–4 over the first ten games of the season. The team brought their win streak home to the newly resurfaced Kohn Field, picking up two more wins to extend their historic unbeaten streak to 42 games. Then, the unthinkable happened.

In front of a large crowd of home fans coming out for the team’s Senior Day, the Panthers were left stunned by Trinity, who narrowly escaped with a 2–1 win. The loss was a major upset, and one that raised questions about the team’s dominance. The Panthers responded in the perfect way.

They bounced back with a dominant display against the highly ranked Tufts, beating them 4–0 before cruising past Williams in a 4–1 win. Once the playoffs began, the title was almost never in doubt, as Middlebury soared through the quarterfinals and semifinals to set up a rematch against Tufts. With goals from Katie George ’24 and Audrey Lazar ’23.5 firing them to a 2–0 victory, the Panthers lifted their fifth NESCAC plaque at the final whistle.

Midfielder Caroline Haggerty ’24.5 credited the win to an excellent team dynamic, thanks, in no small part, to excellent leadership from both the team captains and Coach Katherine DeLorenzo. “A lot of our success comes from the joy that we have playing with each other,” Haggerty said. “There’s a lot of shared love, and we all trust each other to do what we need to do and get the job done.”

Speaking on the midseason defeat to Trinity, Haggerty claims the loss actually helped the team move forward as they prepared for their annual playoff push. “For everyone in my grade and younger, we had never lost a game in our college career, so in many ways it was what we needed to improve our game,” she said. “It was instrumental in helping us fix some things we needed to fix, so we made some changes after the game, and I think we’re better for it.”

The team now has its sights set firmly on the NCAA tournament, as they look to claim their fifth consecutive title, a feat no team in the division has ever achieved before. Haggerty is excited for the opportunity to set yet another record but emphasizes that winning is not the team’s primary target. “Fans may focus on titles, but as a team, we want to play the best field hockey we can play,” she said. “[Coach DeLorenzo] always says that we can push Division III field hockey to be better, so we want to keep pushing that level, and then we’ll see what we can accomplish.”

The Panthers return to action on Saturday, Nov. 12, against the winner of MIT vs. SUNY Cortland at Kohn Field.

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.