“It is an honor and a joy to be empowered by the talent, intellect, heart and relationships that these men all have. I am amazed by it every day.”
– Coach Catherine DeLorenzo
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Picture this: A visitor to one of coach Kathryn DeLorenzo’s field hockey practices at Middlebury College in 2017 tells the athletes that they will win the next three NESCAC and NCAA Division III titles.
Visitor adds that a few of the younger players in training, after the pandemic canceled the 2020 season, would later be teammates with the athletes who would go on to win the next three NESCAC and NCAA titles in a row after that. In other words, the Panther hockey team would win postseason titles in all six years they played.
Will the 2017 athletes laugh? Shaking their heads in disbelief? Point out that no college field hockey team in any division has ever won six consecutive national titles?
Or will the Panthers get back to work and make history?
The last answer is the correct one: There doesn’t seem to be anything distracting the Panther hockey team from the prize, and more importantly what it takes every day to get it.
In October they took care of their sixth league title. On Sunday, they completed a four-game scoreless run during the NCAA Tournament with a 2-0 win over Johns Hopkins to capture their sixth straight title, tying the season at 22-0 in the process.
Following the Panthers’ success in the NESCAC Championship, senior tri-captain Katie George said a daily focus on improvement and strong team chemistry have been key elements to the program’s success over the years.
After Sunday’s win over Johns Hopkins (22-2), fellow tri-leader Audrey Lazar — who scored both goals in the final — echoed George’s words.
“This team is really great, and it makes it really easy to be great leaders, because you have 29 other people doing the right thing all the time,” Lazar said. “It’s a special group of people, and we’re very fortunate to have the results we do every day.”
Junior midfielder Katherine Lanzi sounded the same theme when asked about the contributions of six of the team’s seniors, five of whom are starters: forwards George and Lazar, center backs and three-man leader Charlotte Marks, goalkeeper KK Newton, and midfielder Sadie Listage. Sixth-grader senior Meg Shelburne also contributed this season.
“This team is full of women of great character, strong women and seniors who represent our strength, our stability and our heart,” Lantzi said.
DeLorenzo added ability to the roster when he was asked in Sunday’s postgame press conference about coaching the group.
“It is an honor and a joy to be supported by the talent, intellect, heart and relationships that all these men have,” DeLorenzo said. “I’m amazed by it every day.”
These seniors also score and assist, and in Sunday’s final, Lazar converted George’s pass in the second minute of the game. The play started with defender Kelly Cooper shooting a shot from behind the left side.
George read a high bounce, shot the ball through the air past a lone defender and into Blue Jay goaltender Alexis Loder, with Lazar to her right. George passed the ball to Lazar, who sent it high and into the left side of the net with 1:24 remaining.
Both teams had chances from the shootout midway through the period, but Loder denied Panther junior midfielder Lily Branca, and the Blue Jay’s Lise Falterer missed a cross. In the final minute of the period, Hopkins had four straight corner kicks, but the Panthers defended them all.
The Panthers dominated the second half, holding Hopkins without a shot. George, Caroline Segal and Branca had chances, but Loder stopped the only shot in her cage.
Middlebury also dominated the third period, but only outscored the Blue Jays by a score of 2-1. But one of those two shots found the mark with about six minutes left in the quarter.
Segal picked up a clear Hopkins ball from the left side, carried it to the circle and fired over the cage. Loader came out and stretched to reject the offer, but Lazar burst in from the right and caught the ball past Loader as it hit the goalkeeper.
In the second minute of the fourth quarter, George passed the ball past a defender and around Loader, but his shot from an acute angle went across the goal mouth and wide of the left post.
Shortly after, the Blue Jays had two good chances. Newton kicked Megan Chang’s cross wide from near the top of the circle, and Emily Amsden was there to put the rebound on goal once, but Marks blocked the effort.
Newton, who finished with five saves, also stopped Courtney Piper in the Blue Jay corner.
The Panthers’ backfield of Marks, Cooper and Eli Hughes, aided by the Panthers’ dedication to defense, shut down the Blue Jays the rest of the way, while Loader, who made six saves, had to stop Lazar’s late shot. Try to get a hat trick.
Middlebury’s commitment to full field defense took its toll.
“Our stability, throughout our first and second lines from back to front, was amazing behind all the pressure that our forwards and midfielders put on their three backs,” DeLorenzo said. “We were attacking them before they could get their heads up a few times and they were dictating to us even when Hopkins had the ball. Not all the time, but enough of the time to make a real difference.
Lazar was named Player of the Tournament after scoring five goals in four matches. George (three goals, one assist), Lanzi and Marks were also named to the All-Tournament Team. George finished with 156 career points, fifth on the all-time list.
Middlebury’s 107 goals and 22 wins this season tied records set in 2022. The Panthers set a program mark for most shutouts in a season with 14, breaking the record of 13 set a year ago.
“I couldn’t be happier for this group of committed workers, players and athletes,” summed up DeLorenzo.
On Friday, the Panthers defeated No. 2 Babson, 3-0. Middlebury also defeated the Beavers 22-2 in September by a score of 3-2.
After an evenly contested first quarter, the Panthers took control of the game in the second quarter, outscoring Beaver 8-2 and getting the go-ahead touchdown from junior Amy Griffin.
In the first quarter, Beaver Camille Marsh fired two shots from near the left post, but the Tiger defense blocked the first, and Newton denied Marsh’s reverse stick attempt on the rebound.
Babson also threatened on an early layup, but the Tiger defense blocked Brian McGrath’s shot from inside the arc.
Lanzi set the tone early in the second half by tackling multiple defenders and firing home, but Babson goalkeeper Paella Formanek (five saves) pushed the ball wide. George also made a mistake in the right corner when he shot a loose ball out of the air.
George quickly forced another corner, and Griffin took advantage. Segal fed in left to LeStage, who threaded a pass to her right to Griffin. Griffin touched down and shot inside the right post at 11:08.
The Beavers forced three corner kicks in the next two minutes and created one good chance, but Newton turned away an effort from Sinead Walsh for the most important of her three saves.
It could be said that this was Babson’s last good chance. The Panthers dominated the rest of the way and did not allow another shot on goal. In the second half, they took three corner kicks, and in one of them, Branka Furmanek was forced to save the ball at the left post.
Seagal made it 2-0 seven minutes into the third period with a corner kick. Seagal, again on the left, fed George, who passed right to Griffin, who fired in from near the penalty spot. Furmanek kicked the ball to her right with her left foot, and it went to Segal at the left post to score at 8:12.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Segal found space on a feed from LeStage, but Fornamek stoned her with her right pad. But with 1:21 remaining, Branca found the cage off the left post through traffic on a feed from Seagal.
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