By Joey Bachich
Middlebury College are the NCAA Division III defending champions and ranked No. 1 in the nation at a staggering 26-1 over the last two years. They have been the biggest powerhouse team in the country over the last few seasons, winning national championships in 2019 and 2022. They started off the season strong as a perfect 6-0 with little struggle beating teams by an average of 13 goals and scoring over 18 goals a game. The No. 3 Lions rolled in 7-0 on the year with only one tight game against No. 18 ranked Hamilton College where the Lions pulled out an 8-6 victory. The Lions have had a few good years as they look to return to the Final Four this season with a deep roster.
A tight first quarter saw Middlebury College up 3-2 after a very punchy opening where there were a ton of turnovers on both sides along with some slow tempo shown by the two teams early. Middlebury College turned up the heat in the second quarter, starting with a 3-0 run to put them up 6-2. The Lions answered back with a goal from senior attacker Anna Devlin, but Middlebury scored three more to answer back quickly. Devlin had another goal late in the quarter and the Lions down 9-4 going into the half with some work to do. The third quarter started off with a goal from Middlebury College, but the Lions quickly scored four goals in four minutes, cutting the lead to 10-8 with a lot of game left to play. Middlebury College and the Lions scored back to back goals, but Middlebury knocked in three more to end the quarter, going up 14-9. Going into the final quarter the Lions could not tuck the ball away early and Middlebury kept possession for most of the game after that, winning 17-11.
FINAL- 17-11 No. 3 Lions Fall to No. 1 Middlebury College
Story of The Game
The College just never seemed able to string together anything consistent throughout the game besides the 3rd quarter four goal explosion. At times, the offense would turn the ball over early in the shot clock, which allowed Middlebury to wear down the defense. Middlebury doubled the Lions in shots and cleared the ball 15 out of 17 times. A play that constantly occurred in the game was when the Middlebury defense got the ball, got it up the field quickly, and got into settled offense very fast without a ton of push back from the Lions ride (like a full court press). On the flip side, the Lions did a good job moving from defense to offense, but the efficiency and quickness was lacking compared to Middlebury and this led to the offense having a shorter shot clock to work with. Finally, junior goalkeeper Julia Charest had a great game with 10 saves and brought a ton of energy after every save that kept the Lions going. While the Lions did not come out with a win, they had a very good game against the toughest team in the nation. In the end, Middlebury had too much firepower for the Lions, but keep an eye out for a rematch in the NCAA tournament where both teams will be looking to return to the Final Four.
The Lions have to shake this loss off quickly and look ahead to No. 9 Gettysburg College, who won the national championship in 2018 and are looking to get back to the Final Four this year. Gettysburg are 4-3 coming into the game but have played six ranked opponents and lost to No. 4 Washington and Lee 10-9 in overtime and No. 5 Salisbury by a score of 10-8. Despite their record, this game should not be overlooked by the College and would be a great game for the Lions to win and get back on track on their push for a championship.