We are starting to run out of superlatives to shower on the Middlebury field hockey team, but one word in particular came to mind during Sunday’s NESCAC Championship game: inevitable.
By the game’s end, it was hardly a surprise to see Middlebury holding the champions banner as they celebrated their sixth consecutive and tenth ever NESCAC title. The Panthers’ win marked the first time a NESCAC field hockey program has captured a double-digit number of titles.
The team also scored wins against Trinity College and Amherst College in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the NESCAC tournament on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, respectively.
From start to finish, the Panthers were relentless in their attack, topping Williams College in shots 30–6, shots on goal 15–1 and corners 10–3. Suffice to say, the question on everyone’s minds was not whether the Panthers would win, but by how much.
It is no exaggeration to say that this season has been nothing short of legendary for the Panthers. The conference final game capped off a march through the NESCAC and, beyond that, saw the team post an 18–0 record and clinch the number 1 national ranking, all without conceding more than two goals in a game, and earning 10 shutouts. Time and time again, the field hockey team continues to prove why they are one of the most celebrated varsity programs at Middlebury.
While players and fans alike look towards the NCAA tournament with hopeful hearts, they should also be looking at the team’s long-term future with the same enthusiasm. A majority of the contributors to the Panthers’ win on Sunday came from those who will be returning to Peter Kohn Field next year. Caroline Segal ’24.5, Amy Griffin ’24.5 and Lilly Branka ’24.5 each recorded a goal while posting six, five and three shots respectively. Griffin particularly shone in this tournament, tallying four goals to equal the all-time team record for NESCAC playoff goals.
Sadie LeStage ’24 was named the NESCAC Player of the Week for her performance in the NESCAC tournament games. LeStage started and played all 60 minutes in both the teams’ semifinal and final games, scoring an assist in each of those competitions. A midfielder, LeStage is tied for second on the team in assists and has tallied three goals throughout the season, two of those being game-winning points.
The Panthers enter the NCAA national tournament as the top ranked team and will begin their journey this Saturday, Nov. 11 in Mechanicsburg, Pa.