Middlebury exploded for seven goals in the fourth quarter to break open a close game, as the Panthers won the program’s eighth NCAA Championship with a 13-5 triumph over Tufts on Sunday in Salem, Virginia. With the win, Middlebury claimed its third title in the last seven years and has won 10-straight NCAA Tournament games dating back to the 2019 season.
The national title is the 41st in team sports for Middlebury College since 1994 and the third during this academic year (field hockey and women’s ice hockey). The Panthers won the season series with the Jumbos (19-4) and avenged their only setback of the spring that came at the hands of Tufts in the conference title game earlier this month. For the second-straight day, Middlebury ended the nation’s longest winning streak, as Tufts entered Sunday’s game as the winners of 12-straight contests.
Panther head coach Kate Livesay wins her fourth NCAA title as a coach after leading Middlebury to the 2016 and 2019 crowns, while also guiding Trinity to the title in 2012. She won twice as a Panther player on the 2001 and 2002 squads.
Middlebury’s Jane Earley was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Erica Barr, Grace Getman and Annie Enrietto were named to the all-tournament team.
Earley gave the Panthers a lift right from the start, knifing through the Jumbo defense on the right side to open the scoring 2:02 into the contest. Earley made it 2-0 three minutes later, creating shooting space and firing a shot past Tufts’ goalie Molly Laliberty. Defender Emma White initiated the next Middlebury goal with a caused turnover in front of the Panther net. She carried the ball up the field and dished a pass to Lily Riseberg for a 3-0 edge. After the Jumbos got on the board on a tally by Sami Rothstein with 6:22 on the clock, Kelcey Dion gave the Panthers a 4-1 lead, bouncing a shot just under the crossbar. Middlebury’s defense had a real strong opening quarter, limiting the Jumbos to one shot and forcing eight turnovers.
Earley made it 5-1 with a marker 47 seconds into the second stanza, before Tufts made a push with back-to-back goals. The pair of markers trimmed the margin to 5-3 and that score carried into the halftime break.
Both defenses limited the chances early in the third frame, with Middlebury breaking through with a tally from Hope Shue. On the free-position attempt, Shue faked high and used a low shot to give the Panthers a 6-3 cushion with 9:19 on the clock. Enrietto made a timely save for Middlebury along the turf on Margie Carden, but the Jumbos closed the gap to a pair of scores (6-4) with 5:29 remaining on a goal from Genna Gibbons. Tufts nearly closed to within a goal when Kathryn Delaney’s shot hit off the right post, keeping the difference at two with a quarter to play.
The teams traded goals 24 seconds apart in the opening minutes of the final stanza. Grace Getman picked up a free ball on her own free-position attempt and scored with 14:10 on the clock, while Delaney countered on the ensuing possession for the Jumbos.
That’s when Earley took over for the Panthers. She charged her way to the net for a score to make it 8-5 and 56 seconds later cashed in on a free-position bid. Earley extended the lead to 10-5 with 7:11 left in the game with a high shot just over the stick of Laliberty. Middlebury’s strong final frame continued when Getman spun past a defender and scored, while Earley set up Susan Rowley from 10-yards out with a nifty pass to make it a 12-5 lead. Rowley put the finishing touches on the title, quick sticking an offering from Riseberg for the 13-5 final.
Earley tied a career-high with six goals and added an assist to lead all players with seven points. In the process, she set Middlebury’s single-season scoring record with 99 points, eclipsing the mark of 96 set by Amy DiAdamo in 1997. Earley finished the season with a school-record 80 goals and her 21 tallies in the NCAA Tournament rank second. She also finished with the second-highest point total for during a tournament with 26. Getman and Rowley added to the attack with two goals each.
On defense, Barr finished with four ground balls and four draw controls, while Madison Paylor scooped up three rollers and caused three turnovers. Enrietto earned the win in goal with four saves, finishing the year with an unblemished 16-0 mark.
For the Jumbos, Mae Briody had a goal and two assists, while Anna Clarke finished with four ground balls. Laliberty recorded nine stops in goal.
Middlebury was steady throughout the tournament, holding each opponent to six goals or less and yielded a total of 22 over five games.