Jeffs Fall to Middlebury in NCAA Title Game

May 20, 2001

BALTIMORE, MD - Middlebury College senior Betsy Wheeler scored what would turn out to be the game-winning goal 24 seconds into the first overtime period to cap a dramatic rally for the Panthers, who knocked off Amherst College in Sunday's NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Championship game, 11-10. Middlebury captured its third national title while the Jeffs finished their best season in school history with a record of 17-3. 

The Jeffs, whose only two losses coming into Sunday's championship game were to the Panthers, fell into an early 2-0 hole after goals from Middlebury sophomore Char Glessner and Julia Bergofsky. After Bergofsky's goal, however, the Jeffs took over, going into a possession-oriented offensive set. Senior Sarah Scheessele (Pittsburgh, PA) got the Jeffs on the board at 21:11 with a goal off a feed from sophomore Mary Kate Allen (Springfield, MA). After back and forth play in the midfield, the Jeffs knotted the score at 2-2 on a goal by sophomore Erin Beaumont (Summit, NJ) just inside the 15-minute mark, before taking a 3-2 lead on a tally from senior co-captain Kristin Osborn (Morristown, NJ) at 12:44. The Jeffs, who continued to dominate possession, stretched Middlebury's zone, opening up the middle of the field where most of Amherst's goals on the afternoon would come from, including Osborn's second consecutive goal off a pretty one-time feed from Allen at the 9:25 mark. 

In a first half dominated by Amherst, the Jeffs widened their lead just before the 6:00 mark when first year Allison Aldrich (Cornwall, VT) broke past three different Middlebury defenders and decoyed a fourth before firing a right-handed rocket past Middlebury goalkeeper Sarah Grenert. Aldrich's goal came just 17 seconds after Panther sophomore Kristen Hanley had scored to cut Amherst's lead to one. In the half's waning minutes, the Jeffs appeared to take control with two goals in a 36-second span from Osborn and Scheessele. All told, the Jeffs scored eight of the last nine goals of the half to take a seemingly insurmountable 8-3 lead into halftime. 

The second half started off on the same positive note for the Jeffs when Osborn scored her fourth goal of the afternoon 3:09 into the period for a 9-3 Amherst lead. From there the sleeping giant that was Middlebury's transition game came to life with a vengeance as the Panthers rattled off four consecutive goals to cut Amherst's lead to 9-7. Allen finished a nifty feed from sophomore Abby Ouimet (Hatfield, MA) at the 13:09 mark to extend the Amherst lead back to three but the Panthers continued to control the game in the midfield. 

Bergofsky netted her third goal of the game on a free-position attempt at 10:27 before Hanley followed with a one-time goal in transition to bring the Panthers to within one at the 9:55 mark. The Jeffs, who had a number of chances to add insurance goals, would come up short, including a shot from sophomore Molly O'Connor (Baltimore, MD) that hit off the left post. The Panthers would capitalize when Bergofsky tied the game at 10-10 with her fourth goal of the afternoon at the 4:46 mark. 

Both teams would have scoring opportunities in the final four minutes, including a shot from Amherst sophomore Erin Beaumont (Summit, NJ) that skirted just wide of the Middlebury net with 3:25 left. Sophomore Amherst goalkeeper Brooke Diamond (Longmeadow, MA), who made eight of her 14 saves in the second half, then stopped a shot from Panther forward Katie Simpson with 11 ticks remaining to force overtime. 

Wheeler scored in transition 24 seconds into the first half of the first overtime to give Middlebury the lead, but the Jeffs, playing their second overtime game in as many days, charged right back and had two solid scoring chances but were unable to capitalize. In the second half of overtime, Amherst continued to threaten and almost tied the game on a free-position shot from Scheessele with 1:31 left. Scheessele's shot went just wide and Amherst would not threaten again as the Panthers held on for the dramatic 11-10 victory. 

In the win for Middlebury, which finished the season with a perfect 17-0 record, Bergofsky led the way with four goals and one assist, while Wheeler - the tournament MVP - added three goals, including the overtime game-winner. For Amherst, which lost to Middlebury in the national championship game for the second time in three years, Osborn led the way with four goals and one assist. Scheessele added three goals and Allen finished with four points on a goal and three assists. Diamond, who netted 55 saves in four NCAA Tournament games, was named to the All-Tournament team along with Osborn and Ouimet. Amherst finished its season with a school-record 17 wins, with all three losses coming at the hands of the Panthers. 

For Amherst's four seniors - co-captain defender Alison Kitay, Osborn, Scheessele and goalkeeper Jess Thaxton (Wayland, MA) - Sunday's title game capped the most outstanding four-year stretch in school history as the quartet graduates with almost every single school record, including an all-time best won-loss record of 54-10.