LEXINGTON, Va – First-year player Grace Jennings scored the only goal of the DIII field hockey national championship to give Middlebury College a 1-0 win over rival Bowdoin College on Sunday. Middlebury (20-2) avenged two regular season losses to Bowdoin (21-1) to win its first title since 1998 at the Turf Field at Washington and Lee University.
As would be expected in a third meeting between two teams in two months, the game saw very few chances for both teams in the first 10 minutes. The Panthers were the first to earn a penalty corner, but the Bowdoin defense stopped the attack.
However, it would not be long until the two squads got going offensively. The Polar Bears' high-potent offense was the first to get a shot in the 13th minute. Kimmy Ganong received a pass from Rachel Kennedy and sent her shot wide of the goal. Three minutes later it was Kennedy’s turn, but once again the attempt went wide of the cage.Despite Bowdoin having more early shots, it was the Panthers who got on the board first. A Bowdoin defender attempted a clear on a centering pass by Pam Schulman, but it bounced over her stick and went straight to Jennings. Clara Belitz came out of the Polar Bear goal, but Jennings sent the shot around her for what proved to be the only tally of the game.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Jennings said after the game.
The Polar Bears had one more opportunity in the half, but Ganong’s attempt off a quick counter was saved by Emily Miller, with the score remaining 1-0 at the half.
Middlebury came out of the break strong, as a great run by Jennings led to a shot by Annie Leonard, but it was blocked in the 41st minute. Soon after, the Panthers earned six penalty corners in just over six minutes. But the Bowdoin defense rose to the occasion and kept the Panthers out of the back of the cage.
“We had four or five good chances on penalty corners but Bowdoin did a great job defending,” Middlebury head coach Katherine DeLorenzo said.
However, the Polar Bears continued to fight and earned several chances. Mettler Growney took a shot off of a counter attack, but it was blocked by a Middlebury defender. Then with just under 12 minutes remaining in the game, Bowdoin earned its first of four second-half penalty corners. The second penalty corner saw Kennedy and Ganong stopped by Miller on consecutive shots.
The third penalty corner for Bowdoin had the first two attempts get blocked on their way to goal. The third, by Growney was once again saved by Miller. The rebound came to Liz Znamierowski, but her shot caught the inside of the post, and it was cleared by Panther Lauren Berestecky and it forced another corner. The ensuing shot was blocked keeping the Middlebury advantage at one.
The Polar Bears had one final chance at the 63:44 mark. Kennedy sent a pass inside the circle to Ganong, who got around Miller and took a shot on goal. But Panther Jillian Green was there to make the defensive save.
“I knew I had to have my stick there,” added Green. “If anything gets by [Miller] then I have to be there.”
Middlebury earned two more penalty corners over the final minutes to help the clock run out.
“We had an incredible season and I’m very proud of my players and reaching this game,” Nicky Pearson, the head coach of Bowdoin said following the tilt. “I can’t speak highly enough of this team to get back to this level.”
Middlebury midfielder Bridget Instrum was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament for her dominating play in the middle.
“Anyone on this team would’ve been deserving of this award,” Instrum said. “It was very rewarding having it come against Bowdoin, considering how long these two teams have been battling each other.”
It was the second national title for the Panthers. It was the only time all year that Bowdoin had been shut out.
The All-Tournament Team
Clara Belitz – Bowdoin College
Lauren Beresteckey – Middlebury College
Mikayla Cimilluca – The College of New Jersey
Jaclyn Douglas – The College of New Jersey
Bridget Instrum – Middlebury College – MOP
Kim Kahnweiler – Bowdoin College
Rachel Kennedy – Bowdoin College
Anna Kenyon – Middlebury College
Ann Kopera – Ursinus College
Pam Schulman – Middlebury College
Amber Steigerwalt – Ursinus College