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Friday, Mar 24, 2023

Middlebury women’s hockey team to return to NCAA Division III Tournament

Members of the women’s hockey team celebrate during their 4–0 win over Connecticut College in the NESCAC playoffs.
Members of the women’s hockey team celebrate during their 4–0 win over Connecticut College in the NESCAC playoffs.

The Middlebury women’s hockey team earned one of the four at-large bids to the NCAA Division III Championships, marking the third straight season that the team has made it to the tournament. 

The team hosted Suffolk University on Wednesday at Chip Kenyon ’85 Arena in the newly expanded 11 team Division III Tournament. Results were not in by press time, but the game’s winner will go on to play Plattsburgh State on March 11. 

Middlebury made it to the tournament after another stellar season in the ultra competitive NESCAC, going 16–7–3. The team briefly saw success in the NESCAC playoffs, beating Connecticut College 4–0 in the quarter finals. Middlebury’s win over Connecticut College was the team’s 700th win in program history and featured contributions from countless players. Notably, Jenna Letterie ’22.5 registered three assists.

However, the team’s quest to defend their NESCAC title fell short after the Panthers lost to Amherst, the No. 4 ranked team in the country,  2–0 in the NESCAC semifinals on March 3. The game between the two NESCAC juggernauts — Amherst last won the NESCAC Championship in 2020 — was competitive, but Middlebury could not find an answer for the pair of goals Amherst scored in the second period. Sabrina Kim ’25 and Letterie both had goal scoring opportunities in the third period, but the Amherst goalie made two great saves to keep Middlebury from scoring. 

Despite a premature playoff exit, the women’s hockey team have much to celebrate in their dominant performance this season and their entry into the Division III National Tournament. In the NESCAC, the team scored the third highest average goals per game, won the second highest percentage of face-offs and had the most successful power play in the league. 

Individually, countless players also had great seasons. Letterie led the NESCAC in assists with 17, was third in the league in points with 26 and had the second best faceoff win percentage at 0.642. Britt Nawrocki ’26 played a prolific rookie year, leading the team in goals scored with 14, good enough for fourth overall in the NESCAC. Nawrocki’s goals were also clutch, as she finished second in the NESCAC in game winning goals with six and third in the NESCAC for power play goals with five. Claudia Vira ’23 stood out as an imposing defensive presence, leading the NESCAC in blocked shots with 48; the next highest total for blocked shots was 30.     

The team’s continued success in the NESCAC is a testament to the enduring strength of the program that Head Coach Bill Mandigo has built. Mandigo, who has four NCAA Championships, 11 NESCAC Championships and the most wins of any women’s hockey coach across all divisions, has seen his program continue to excel in recent years. Middlebury is the only NESCAC team to be in the NCAA tournament for each of the last three seasons and is one of only four teams across the country to make the tournament during that same time period. Middlebury women’s hockey continues to show that it is a powerhouse in Division III.