Courtesy of Trinity College Sports Information
Hartford, Conn. – Sophomore midfielder Caroline Hayes scored the game-winning goal on a free-position shot with 1:37 left in the second half of overtime to lead the Trinity College Bantams to an 8-7 victory over the visiting Middlebury College Panthers in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Women’s Lacrosse Championship Finals this afternoon on Sheppard Field. The top-seeded Bantams improve to 17-0 with their College-record 25th consecutive win and collect their third straight league crown. Middlebury loses just its second game of the year, both one-goal losses in Hartford to the Bantams, dropping to 15-2. Defending NCAA Division III Champion Trinity earns the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tourney, while Middlebury is assured of an at-large invitation. The Bantams have beaten Middlebury seven times in a row and five of those have been one-goal contests including the last two NESCAC Finals.
After the first three minutes of overtime passes with just one shot taken by each team, Trinity senior captain midfielder Megan Leonhard secured the draw after the teams switched sides and the Hayes was fouled on an aggressive offensive move toward the goal. She fired a quick shot past the left side of Middlebury junior goalie Alyssa Palombo for the clinching tally, and senior Mallory Hinman registered her third caused turnover of the game to stop Panther senior attacker Ellen Halle near the Trinity cage in the final minute.
Trinity built a 5-0 lead over the game’s first 16:46, as junior attacker Shea Kusiak notched two goals and an assist during the run including the first tally of the game 1:57 after the opening draw. Middlebury turned the tables over the latter half of the opening period, as junior midfielder Liza Herzog fed senior attacker Emma Kramer on back-to-back goals 50 seconds apart, and sophomore midfielder Katie Ritter scored the last goal before the break from Halle at the 8:06 mark for a 5-3 Trinity lead at halftime. Middlebury first-year midfielder Chrissy Ritter hit the post with 3:20 left in the first half, and Palombo stooped Kusiak on a free position with 2:40 left before the break.
Kramer assisted senior attacker Alice Pfeiffer for the first goal of the second stanza with 21:29 on the clock, but Kusiak found first-year attacker Molly Cox in traffic in front of the net for her second goal of the game at the 19:08 mark. Cox fed fellow rookie Martha Griffin less than two minutes later for a 7-4 Bantam lead, but consecutive scores by Halle and first-year midfielder Laurel Pascal pulled the visitors to within one at 7-6 with 9:15 left in regulation. After an apparent game-tying goal by Middlebury senior midfielder Michaela Colbert was negated due to a yellow card for a dangerous shot, Kramer made it three Panther goals in a row to complete her hat trick by converting on a pass by Herzog at the 4:37 mark to tie the game for the first and last time. Each team turned the ball over twice in the final 4:37 of regulation, and the first three minutes of overtime consisted of three more turnovers, a wide shot by Bantam senior attacker Hadley Duncan and a save by Trinity senior captain goalie Olivia Whitney on Herzog.
Kusiak paced the Trinity offense with two goals and two assists to go with two ground balls and two caused turnovers, while Cox added two goals and one assist, Griffin scored twice, and Leonhard scored once. Hayes and Hinman collected three groundballs and three caused turnovers apiece, and Whitney stopped three shots in the Bantam goal. Herzog notched a game-high four assists and three draw controls, while Kramer added an assist to her three goals, and Halle finished with one goal and one assist for Middlebury. Senior defender Heather Marrison had three ground balls, while Katie Ritter totaled a game-high four draw controls, and Palomba had seven Panther saves. Trinity outshot Middlebury, 20-13, and forced 19 turnovers while committing 12. The Panthers controlled 12 of 19 draws.