No. 1 Middlebury Holds off Second-Half Amherst Rally in NESCAC Title Game

May 6, 2001

MIDDLEBURY, Vermont - The Middlebury College women's lacrosse team, ranked number-one in Division III, built a 7-1 halftime lead over second-ranked Amherst College and then withstood a furious rally from the visiting Jeffs in the second half, eventually hanging on for a 9-6 victory in Sunday's NESCAC Women's Lacrosse Championship Game. With the win, the Panthers (13-0) earn the NESCAC's automatic bid to the 2001 NCAA Tournament. The Jeffs (14-2), whose only two losses are to Middlebury, are almost assured of the lone at-large bid to the 16-team NCAA field, with seedings and pairings announced on Sunday night. 

Middlebury, who built a 9-5 halftime lead en route to an 18-11 victory over the Jeffs on April 7, once again controlled the first half, scoring five unanswered goals to open the game. Senior Panther co-captain Betsy Wheeler (Wenham, MA) opened the barrage with an unassisted tally at 24:50, with Middlebury sophomore Nuala O'Donohoe (Needham, MA) adding a free-position tally at 20:24 and classmate Char Glessner (Ipswich, MA) finishing a Wheeler feed at 19:27 for an early 3-0 Panther lead. 

The Jeffs had their chances in the early going, but first-year Middlebury goalie Sarah Grenert (Sewickley, PA) stopped early shots from Amherst sophomores Erin Beaumont (Summit, NJ) and Abby Ouimet (Hatfield, MA), keeping the visitors off the scoreboard past the midway-mark of the opening half. On the other end, sophomore Amherst goalie Brooke Diamond (Longmeadow, MA) posted six first-half saves, but Middlebury's offensive pressure was overwhelming in the first half, and goals from Panther junior Ali Connolly (Marblehead, MA) and Glessner gave the hosts a 5-0 lead with 11:35 remaining in the first half. 

Senior Jeff attacker Sarah Scheessele (Pittsburgh, PA) finally got the visitors on the scoreboard 33 seconds later, finishing a nifty feed from Beaumont, but Middlebury would add two more goals, with Wheeler and junior Julia Bergofsky (Exeter, NH) scoring twice in 36 seconds inside the seven-minute mark, to take a 7-1 lead into halftime, outshooting Amherst 16-9. 

The second half, however, was a different story. From the opening draw, the Jeffs controlled much of the play after halftime, thanks in part to a dominating defensive performance from Diamond, senior co-captain Alison Kitay (Washington, DC), and juniors Cara Coscarelli (W. Hartford, CT) and Carrie Foster (Warsaw, OH). The Middlebury defense was just as solid, though, keeping the Jeffs off the scoreboard through the first 10 minutes of the second half despite repeated Amherst opportunities. Finally, the Panthers broke through, with Wheeler scoring a nifty goal in transition at the 19:53-mark for an 8-1 Middlebury lead, matching the Jeffs' largest deficit of the season. 

After Wheeler's goal, the Jeffs finally began to solidify their attack. First-year Allison Aldrich (Cornwall, VT) rocketed a shot past Grenert at 17:55 for Amherst's second goal of the game, and senior co-captain Kristin Osborn (Morristown, NJ) snuck a free-position shot inside the right post at 15:10 to cut the Middlebury edge to 8-3. First-year Christine Ryan (Summit, NJ) finished a perfect Beaumont feed from behind the net for her first career goal at 12:14 to close the Jeffs to within four, and the Panthers took a timeout to try to slow Amherst's momentum. 

It didn't work. Instead, the Jeffs scored again just 26 seconds after the ensuing draw, with Aldrich blasting a Beaumont pass past Grenert to cut the Middlebury advantage to 8-5. Scheessele added a free-position goal at the 9:50-mark to bring Amherst to within two, and the Jeffs had three different scoring chances in the next three minutes, including a point-blank shot from Beaumont, that could have cut the deficit to 8-7. Beaumont's shot was saved by Grenert, however, and the Panther defense broke up Amherst's other opportunities, giving the ball back to Middlebury's potent offense just inside the seven-minute mark. On that possession, the Panthers added a huge insurance goal on a free-position score from Bergofsky, and the Jeffs would come up empty in their remaining chances, with Middlebury killing the last four minutes off the clock to take the 9-6 victory. 

For Middlebury (13-0), Glessner led the way with three goals and an assist, while Wheeler added two tallies and two helpers, and Bergofsky scored twice. The nine goals was the Panthers' lowest offensive output of the season, highlighting a tremendous effort by Amherst's defense, who caused 23 of Middlebury's 24 turnovers. The Panthers, who had won each of their 12 previous games by seven or more goals, earned the inaugural NESCAC women's lacrosse title, and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament that goes along with it. 

For the Jeffs, (14-2), Aldrich and Scheessele scored two goals each in the loss, while Beaumont added three assists and Diamond matched a day-old career-high with 12 saves. The loss, which snaps Amherst's nine-game winning streak, should not have an adverse effect on Amherst's NCAA Tournament hopes, since the Jeffs have wins over the third, fourth, fifth and sixth-ranked teams in the latest Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) poll. Pairings and seedings for the 16-team field will come out on Sunday night, with Sweet 16 action beginning next Saturday at four regional sites.

Sunday, May 6, 2001     1     2   --   F
#2 Amherst College (14-2)   1     5   --   6
#1 Middlebury College (13-0)   7     2   --   9

AC - Aldrich 2, Scheessele 2, Osborn, Ryan;
MC - Glessner 3, Wheeler 2, Bergofsky 2, Connolly, O'Donohoe; 

AC - Beaumont 3;
MC - Wheeler 2, Glessner; 

AC - Brooke Diamond, 12 saves (9 ga, 60:00);
MC - Sarah Grenert, 5 saves (6 ga, 60:00); 

Shots: AC 19, MC 31; 
Ground Balls: AC 30, MC 31;
Turnovers: AC 27, MC 24; 
Draw Controls: AC 10, MC 7;
Fouls: AC 7, MC 11;

Cards: AC 1 (Ouimet, Yellow, 2-20:29), MC 1 (Glessner, Yellow, 2-16:02);