Middlebury, Tufts Make NCAA Final an All-NESCAC Affair

PHOTO BY KEITH LUCAS

Erica Barr (10) pulled in a game-high 12 draw controls in Middlebury's 18-5 rout of Gettysburg in the NCAA Division III women's lacrosse semifinals in Salem, Va.


Tufts and Middlebury will play for the NCAA Division III women’s championship in a rematch of the NESAC title game Sunday. First draw is set for 3:30 p.m. at D.J. Kerr Stadium in Salem, Va., and on NCAA.com.

Tufts captured the conference crown, handing Middlebury its only loss of the season in the process, and booked a return trip to the NCAA championship with a win over TCNJ Saturday. Middlebury earned its chance to get revenge against its NESAC rival by racing by Gettysburg in the first semifinal.

Here’s how both teams advanced.

MIDDLEBURY’S COMEBACK TOUR CONTINUES WITH ROUT OF GETTYSBURG

Middlebury didn’t play at all in 2021. This year, the Panthers will vie for an NCAA championship after beating Gettysburg 18-5 in the first national semifinal Saturday.

Niki Mormile led the way for Middlebury (21-1) with four goals and an assist, and Jane Earley tallied two goals and three assists. Hope Shue netted a hat trick, and Lily Riseberg dished three helpers. Erica Barr tallied a game-high of 12 draw controls. The Panthers controlled 20 of 26 draws.







The loss ends Carol Cantele’s three-decade coaching career at Gettysburg. The program’s all-time wins leader produced a 446-115 record, including a 19-4 mark this year, and led the Bullets to three national titles.

Middlebury played textbook team lacrosse from the opening whistle. The Panthers won five of six draw controls in the first quarter, allowing the offense to get to work.

And work the Panthers did.

Five different players scored during a game-opening 5-0 run, punctuated when Mormile split the defense and dodged hard to the cage for a goal with one minute left in the first quarter.

Jordan Basso got Gettysburg on the board at the 12:21 mark of the second quarter. But Mormile responded less than a minute later, and Shue extended the advantage to 7-1 with a goal at 10:35.

Searching for a momentum shift, Cantele replaced Gill Cortese with Shannon Twill in net with 5:16 remaining in the second quarter. But Twill couldn’t stop Mormile from scoring her third goal of the day to make it 8-1 Middlebury with 3:10 until halftime.

Twill did temporarily stifle the Panthers, making three saves in the final 2:08 of the second quarter, and Gabi Conor scored the first goal of the third frame at 13:05. But the Bullets could never seize momentum. Susan Rowley tallied a goal to start a 3-0 run less than a minute later. The Panthers took a 13-3 lead and got running time when Mormile took a feed from Earley for a player-up goal at 3:50 of the third quarter.   

Middlebury will appear in the title game for the 11th time in program history. The Panthers won their seventh NCAA championship in their last appearance in 2019, their most recent complete season. 

CARDEN, LALIBERTY LEAD TUFTS BACK TO NCAA FINAL

Tufts is heading back to the NCAA championship game, and it has a freshman and senior to thank for it. Freshman Margie Carden scored a game-high seven goals and senior goalie Molly Laliberty turned in a 16-save performance as the Jumbos downed TCNJ 18-7.

Mae Briody finished with four assists and Ella Lesperance tallied a hat trick.

Jennifer LaRoca led TCNJ with four goals and two assists in her collegiate finale.

The Jumbos improved to 19-3, while TCNJ’s season ends with an 18-3 mark.

Laliberty made five first-quarter saves, and Carden netted three of Tufts’ first four goals to give the Jumbos a 4-2 lead in the first 15 minutes.

The two continued to have hot hands in the second quarter. Laliberty stopped an Ally Tobler attempt, and Carden ripped a shot and scored on the other end to give Tufts a 5-2 lead at 12:22. Carden struck again less than a minute later when Anna Clarke found her on the doorstep and for a sixth time by burying a free position goal that made it an 8-2 game at 9:47.

With Tufts in front 9-2 and 4:25 remaining in the first half, Jennifer LaRoca appeared to score her third — and TCNJ’s third — goal of the day, but it was waved off after a stick check. It was a mistake the Lions could ill-afford to make with Laliberty standing strong and on her head in net. She finished the first half with 11 saves and blanked TCNJ in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Jumbos’ offense continued to roll. Madeline Delaney scored with four seconds left to put Tufts in front, 10-2, at the break.  

After Clarke converted a free position to open the third quarter, Carden’s seventh goal of the day gave Tufts a 12-2 lead and got the clock running at 13:20. The Jumbos capped an 11-0 run and went up 15-2 when Briody found Lesperance at 2:22.  

Anna Devlin stopped the barrage with a free position goal with 22 ticks left in the third quarter, the Lions’ first goal since the final minute of the first frame.

Tobler scored back-to-back goals to start the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 15-5 with 11:55 remaining.

LaRoca did notch her hat trick at 8:37, which temporarily stopped running time, but Clarke answered 47 ticks later to put the Jumbos back up by 10.

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