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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Field hockey claims fifth consecutive national title

Coach Katherine DeLorenzo puts Middlebury’s name at the end of the bracket.
Coach Katherine DeLorenzo puts Middlebury’s name at the end of the bracket.

For athletes and fans alike, opportunities to witness moments of true greatness in sports that border on unbelievable are few-and-far-between.

In a tense and exhilarating match against Johns Hopkins for the 2022 national title, the Panthers secured their fifth consecutive national championship, proving, yet again, that there is something incredibly unique about the tradition of Middlebury field hockey. The game was a gritty, thrilling and unrelenting battle for possession, as the two teams remained in a deadlock, but an overtime goal scored by Amy Griffin ’24.5 finally set the two teams apart.

Since preseason, the team has worked tirelessly toward technical goals to speed up the offense, improve scoring opportunities and seamlessly move the ball down the field. The rewards have certainly reflected that work, as the team earned a 21–1 record, a conference title and a 7th national championship trophy. To add onto these milestones, the national championship game secured goalie Grace Harlan ’22.5’s place as Middlebury’s all-time career holder in shutouts (25), earned the team three all-tournament honorees and brought the team’s total up to 107 goals scored, the most scored in a single season in the program’s history. Throughout the season, opponents scored a mere 12 total goals against the Panthers.

Reflecting on a season of new challenges and triumphs, Head Coach Katherine DeLorenzo spoke to the unique demeanor of each player on the team and how every member of the team encapsulates the soul of the program.

“The members of this team truly represent all that I’d ever want to have on a team — the grit, the love, the intellect, the ethic, the hope and the relationships — when what you’re chasing is the greatest possible performance, then what you’re chasing never has to change, regardless of if you’ve won 50 in a row, won just one game or just lost one,” DeLorenzo said.

It is certainly this mindset, and the marked success accompanying her throughout her 14 years leading the program, that contributed to DeLorenzo’s induction into the NFHCA Hall of Fame, which will take place on Jan. 23, 2023.

From an outsider’s perspective, Middlebury field hockey has become an unerring NCAA dynasty that continues to set the standard for Division III athletics in unprecedented ways. Yet, their titles, rings, conference championships and individual honors reflect only a small portion of the achievements deserving of celebration. Rather, the most memorable moments of the season often came from players’ ability to execute when faced with unfamiliar challenges.

According to DeLorenzo, the part of Middlebury field hockey that truly astonishes opponents are the non-starters, who take opportunities in critical moments: “with less preparation and a steely-eyed, unwavering commitment to mental preparation, they can step on the field and make great plays. That is what defines Middlebury field hockey.”

The tradition of Middlebury field hockey is a complex machine of drive, unrelenting devotion to excellence, trusting and authentic relationships and commitment. As much as the All-American and All-Conference honorees this season, moments of brilliance from players like Ellie Hughes ’24.5, Caroline Haggerty ’24.5 and Kelly Cooper ’25 offer a glimpse into the depth and commitment of the program that cannot be found elsewhere.

No year of Panther field hockey has looked quite like the last, but through years of unprecedented accomplishments and successes to celebrate, one thing is clear: the team’s ability to take control with grace under pressure has carried them to this point, and their confidence and hunger in every moment on the field has kept them on top.