Lions suffer season-ending loss to Panthers

The Lions went into the NCAA Division III Field Hockey Tournament this weekend playing as they have all season – with a mix of dominating offense and stellar defense. But a few bad breaks on Sunday left the team on the losing end of a 2-1 game.

On Sunday, the time clock clicked down to zero but the Lions still had a chance for an upset goal with three consecutive penalty corners. The Panthers of Middlebury College were able to withstand the enormous offensive push and managed to get the ball out of the 16-yard mark, effectively ending the game and the Lions’ season.

It seemed the Lions would take a victory from the Panthers as they put heavy pressure on the defense early in the first half. The teams continued to battle inside of the Panthers’ 16-yard mark but the Lions struggled to get a shot off.

A hit from the Panthers took the momentum down the other side of the field and toward Gregory. After three straight penalty corners and three saves by Gregory, Middlebury’s junior midfielder Lindsay McBride rocketed a shot into the back of the cage to take the lead.

The Lions had plenty of chances to even the score, drawing six penalty corners from the Panthers in the first half alone, but were unable to make contact into the cage.

“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” Gregory said. “Unfortunately, they did.”

McBride took advantage of yet another Panthers’ penalty corner in the first half, scoring her second goal of the game.

“Obviously as a goalie I look to myself for the goals that were scored,” Gregory said. “I keep wondering ‘what if I did this different or that different?’ But it comes down to the fact that they put the ball in the cage and we just couldn’t get it in there.”

The second half seemed to bring about a rejuvenated Lions offense, which drew two penalty corners within the first two minutes. The Lions spent the majority of the second half in Panthers territory but continued to struggle in getting a shot off.

With two minutes left in the game, the Lions finally managed to put a point on the scoreboard. Junior forward Kelly Mitchell scored her first goal of the season, scoring off of a penalty corner. Both junior defender Jackie Gelinas and Waller assisted the goal.

The tournament started on Saturday versus the Herons of William Smith College as the Lions reminded everyone they were gunning for a championship crown.

Junior forward Katie Reuther opened up the scoring for the Lions, netting a goal off of a penalty stroke 17:09 into the first half.

The original goal seemed to open up the floodgates for the Lions, as sophomore forward Jessica Falcone scored twice more in the half within a span of 58 seconds, leaving the Lions with a three-goal advantage going into halftime.

It didn’t take long in the second half before the Lions struck again. Freshman forward Mary Waller gathered a loose ball in front of the cage to net her third goal of the season and the Lions’ fourth of the game.

The final goal for the Lions came when Reuther set up freshman forward Leigh Mitchell for her team-leading 16th goal of the season.

The Herons seemed to have some fight left in them as they managed to slip one by junior goalkeeper Caitlin Gregory with 10 minutes left in the game. Overall, Gregory made five saves for the night to secure the 5-1 win.

The No. 5 College finished the year with a 17-3 record for the second straight season. Middlebury College will go on in the tournament to face Salisbury University on Friday.