Field Hockey Falls to Middlebury in Final Minute of NESCAC Championship

Photo courtesy of www.CIPhotography.com
Photo courtesy of www.CIPhotography.com

BRUNSWICK, Maine - Catherine Fowler scored the game-winning goal with 26 seconds remaining in regulation to give Middlebury College its third consecutive NESCAC Championship, 2-1, over Bowdoin on Sunday afternoon at Ryan Field.

The Panthers (17-1) receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after avenging a regular season loss to Bowdoin on September 20. The Polar Bears (16-2) will likely receive an at-large bid to the tournament when selections are announced on Sunday evening.

Bowdoin got on the board first on Sunday, as Meredith Tibbals centered a pass from the right wing to Rachel Kennedy, who redirected the pass into the back of the cage for a 1-0 Polar Bear lead at 9:10. Middlebury answered with some offensive pressure of their own, and scored off their first corner of the game. After an initial shot by Fowler was stopped on the goal line by Bowdoin's Colleen Finnerty, Hollis Perticone pounced on the rebound to even the score 3:36 before halftime.

The teams traded good chances to open the second period as Middlebury successfully defended a Bowdoin corner and looked to break out in transition. A hard shot from the wing by Bridget Instrum was kicked aside by Bowdoin goaltender Hannah Gartner, however, keeping the game deadlocked. The Polar Bears fended off two more Panther corners, as Gartner made another diving stop on Fowler. Bowdoin almost found the game winner with nine minutes remaining, but Emily Knapp made a charging stop on a run by Kennedy to preserve the 1-1 tie.

Middlebury was able to earn a penalty corner in the closing moments, and milked the clock to under one minute to play. Following the insertion by Alyssa DiMaio, Fowler rifled a low, hard shot that skipped through traffic and into the goal with just 26 seconds remaining. Bowdoin could not sustain a possession on the other end as time expired.

Knapp was forced to make just one save in net for the Panthers, while Gartner made four stops for Bowdoin. The Panthers held a 7-5 advantage in shots as most of the game was contested in the midfield.

The championship is the fourth overall for Middlebury, who have beaten Bowdoin for the crown in each of the last three seasons, all by a single goal. It is the fourth runner-up trophy for the Polar Bears, who own seven NESCAC championships in all.

NCAA Tournament selections are expected to be released on ncaa.org at 10:30 Sunday evening.