LEXINGTON, Va. -- A goal in each half and a tremendous defensive effort gave The College of New Jersey the right to play for the program's 11th NCAA Division III Field Hockey Championship as the Lions shut out Middlebury 2-0 on Saturday.
TCNJ (22-1) will take on Bowdoin (19-2), which knocked off top-ranked Salisbury 2-1 in the other semifinal. The Polar Bears are the defending national champions. The national title game is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. on the campus of Washington & Lee University.The win was the 14th in a row for the fourth-ranked Lions, while the Panthers saw their 15-game winning streak snapped. Second-ranked Middlebury finished the season at 19-2.
The Lion defense was outstanding throughout as they became the first team this season to shut out the Panthers. Middlebury entered the game ranked first in goals per game, scoring at a clip of 5.15 goals per game.
"We played our game. I think everybody played really well and we played together," coach Sharon Pfluger said.
As a unit, TCNJ's defense yielded only five shots on goal and sophomore goalie Kelly Schlupp stopped each of those scoring bids.
"We had each other's backs. No matter what," Schlupp stated. "We played really well today. Our defense has a very strong chemistry."
The Lions struck first taking advantage of the first penalty corner of the contest. Hatch inserted the ball and then hung around the net where ball found its way back to her and she capitalized with her 33rd goal of the season 8:49 into the game.
"It was great to score right away and what I was happy about was the execution," Pfluger noted.
TCNJ had another quality scoring chance with just under 20 minutes left as sophomore Alicia Wagner worked her way around a Panther defender to get into shooting position. She was able to get a good shot off, but it went wide keeping the difference at 1-0.
A penalty corner in the closing minutes almost resulted in another goal for the Lions as senior Victoria Martin punched a shot wide.
It took TCNJ less than five minutes into the new half to get that second goal. It once again came on a play that started on a penalty corner with Wagner getting the goal. Picking up an assist on the play was sophomore Lexi Smith.
With the two-goal lead, the Lions turned things over to its defense. Schlupp made a rolling save on a close-range shot by Middlebury's Bridget Instrum, and then denied Catherine Fowler with less than 11 minutes left on a penalty corner.
TCNJ came close to adding a third goal with under eight minutes left in regulation as sophomore Jaclyn Dougla slide her bid wide.
The Lions then fought off three other Panther corners in the final four minutes to earn the shutout.
Panther goalie Emily Knapp finished with two saves.
TCNJ Field Hockey prevails with 2-0 shutout over Middlebury! Lions face Bowdoin in NCAA national championship game at 1pm tomorrow— TCNJ Athletics (@tcnjathletics) November 22, 2014