Field hockey rebounds to upset Panthers, advances to semifinals

After a devastating 7-1 loss to Middlebury (11-4, 6-4 in the NESCAC) on Friday that gave Middlebury home field advantage in the first round of the NESCAC tournament, field hockey (6-9, 6-4) upset the Panthers when it counted, beating Middlebury 2-1 on Sunday in NESCAC quarterfinals.

The Ephs have suffered several losses this season due to the team’s failure to score on penalty corners and convert on other opportunities in the circle. The opposite was true on Sunday, however. In the team’s second match-up against the Panthers in three days, the women outscored Middlebury despite the Panthers’ outshooting the Ephs in both periods.

The Ephs started Sunday’s game strong, when Alice Bearn ’11 sent the ball out of a crowded circle and into the net barely two minutes into the first period. Middlebury countered 10 minutes later when Chase Delano took advantage of a rebound from teammate Lauren Greer’s stick, tying the score at 1-1. Both defenses then stepped it up, and the score remained tied at one for the rest of the period.

The competition was fierce in the second half, with the teams alternating possession of the ball but failing to score until the final minutes. With only 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Williams goalie Katrina Tulla ’11 blocked what would have been a key goal for Middlebury. Just five minutes later, Lindsey Davies ’11 scored the game-winning goal when she found the net unassisted, bringing the score to 2-1.

In the game’s final minutes, the Panthers tried to even the score by pulling their goalie and sending out an extra offensive player, a tactic very rarely used in field hockey. “Some of our team didn’t even notice, I don’t think,” co-captain Anne de Saint Phalle ’10 said. “We were just really focused on defense, on keeping the ball out of our goal. We were ahead so we weren’t really trying to score.” The Eph defense was successful maintaining the lead for the win.

“After Friday’s loss we were all really frustrated, because we knew the score wasn’t indicative of how we had played,” de Saint Phalle said. “We knew we could do it [on Sunday], we just wanted to play really well together. We played a really good defensive game. Katrina made a lot of great saves.”

Friday’s game against Middlebury was a completely different story. The Ephs were outplayed from the start, when Middlebury scored twice within the first 10 minutes of play. Panther Greer found the net both times, the second shot with an assist from Heather McCormick.

Middlebury continued to excel offensively throughout the half. Sally Ryan got past the defense with the help of an assist from Delano in the second half of the period, and McCormick followed with another goal, assisted by Greer, less than five minutes later. Then Allison Grant assisted Ryan in finding the net for the fifth and final goal of the period.

Middlebury kept the heat on in the second half, scoring less than five minutes in when Delano sent the ball into the net with an assist from Charlotte Gardiner. Hanna Clarke scored Middlebury’s seventh goal later in the period, assisted by Logan Brown.

Williams barely avoided a shutout when Nicolle Perry ’13 found the net off a deflected shot by Bearn, making the final score 7-1. Although both teams had 15 shots on goal, Middlebury’s offense had greater precision, outscoring the Ephs dramatically and walking away with the game.

“[The Panthers] were just able to capitalize on just about every opportunity in the circle, and we weren’t able to do that, even though we had just as many shots and penalty corners as them,” de Saint Phalle said.

Despite a hard loss on Friday, field hockey understood when to turn on the heat. The team’s win on Sunday knocked Middlebury from the postseason while advancing the Ephs to the NESCAC semifinals, to be held at Trinity. Williams will face Tufts on Saturday to determine which team will continue its postseason.