|Colby College||Middlebury College|
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — For the sixth time in the proud history of Colby College women’s lacrosse, the Mules are headed to the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship game.
Colby won its 12th straight game after scoring the final two goals of the contest in a 10-9 win over defending national champion and top-seeded Middlebury College on Saturday at Kohn Field.
The fourth-seeded Mules advance to Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game against third-seeded Trinity College. The Bantams took a 12-3 win over Hamilton College in the other semifinal. Trinity won 11-10 in overtime against the Mules back on March 10 on Bill Alfond Field.
“I think what I’m most impressed with is the resiliency of this team. We never give up and never stop believing,” Colby head coach Karen Henning said. “Multiple players stepped up when we need them most. I’m so proud of them.”
Colby (14-3 overall) will be looking for its third NESCAC title after winning in 2008 and 2009. The Mules are 2-3 in championship games, losing in 2007, 2010, and 2011. Colby improved to 19-14 in the NESCAC tourney since the league started a playoff system in 2001.
The Mules led or were tied for the first 50 minutes of the game. However, the Panthers received back-to-back goals from MG Gately and Jenna McNicholas to take a 9-8 lead with 9:59 left in the game.
Colby never was rattled and played with confidence in the closing moments. Emilie Klein, the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, did the job offensively when she converted a free-position shot with 6:24 left to tie the game at 9-9.
Both teams had opportunities over the next four minutes to take the lead. Sasha Fritts was fouled at the perfect spot on the right side of the circle for a left-handed player to get off a good shot on a free-position. Fritts, who often takes one step and fires on her free-position shots, raced hard at the goal, switched hands to righty, and tallied with 2:18 remaining for the game-winning goal.
The Panthers had two shots hit the goal post in a span of 14 seconds at 1:20 remaining and 1:06 to play. After a turnover by the Mules, Izzy Scribano made a save on Panther leading scorer Mary O’Connell with 14 seconds left.
Colby fell behind 3-1 to the Panthers in the regular season meeting, but this time got off to a fine start. Kendall Smith scored from Klein and Perticone made it 2-0 off a free-position shot.
The Panthers battled back with two straight free-position goals by Sara DiCenso and Bea Eppier to tie the contest.
Colby scored four straight goals for the largest lead of the game at 6-2. Perticone had two goals and one assist in the 4-0 scoring run. Smith had the other two goals.
“The Middlebury goalie played really well,” Henning said. “We talked about making sure we took good shots and finishing on our shots.”
Middlebury fought back again with three straight scores to end the first half. Hollis Pertione, the younger sister of Lexie Perticone, Eppier, and Casey O’Neill made it 6-5 at intermission.
Fritts scored an important goal with 23:46 left in the game from Lexie Perticone to put the Mules back up 7-5. Eppier and McConnell scored three minutes apart to tie the game at 7-7. Smith scored her fourth goal of the game off a pass from Gemma Bready to put the Mules back up by one goal.
Smith is up to 42 goals and five assists for 47 points this season. Lexie Perticone had three goals and two assists to raise her season-best totals to 34 goals and 27 assists for 61 points. Fritts also went over 40 goals and has 41 and five assists for 46 points.
The Mules helped their own cause by winning the draw control (14-7) battle and were 4-for-8 on free-position shots.
Middlebury goalie Kate Furber kept her team in the game with 12 saves, including seven stops in the second half to help the Panthers go ahead.
Scribano had three ground balls to go with two saves for Colby. Georgia Lubrano finished with two caused turnovers and two ground balls. Lubrano, one of the fastest Mules, played a major part in Colby’s clears in the final 30 minutes. Klein had three draw controls, one caused turnover, and one ground ball.
Colby midfielder Madeleine Hatch had six of her team’s 14 draw controls. The Mules had a 9-3 edge in draws in the opening half.
“Maddie, Emilie, and Grace (Crowell) were huge on the draw today,” Henning said. “We really needed possession against a very good Middlebury team.”
Hollis Perticone had one goal, three ground balls, two caused turnovers, and two draw controls for Middlebury (13-4). Furber added two caused turnovers and four ground balls, while Alex White had three caused turnovers and two ground balls.