Top-ranked Middlebury avenges 2003 championship loss

Saturday’s game began auspiciously as the Jeffs scored in the opening minute. After winning the face-off, tri-captain Liz Martin ’04 passed to Ashley Harmeling ’05, who carried the ball downfield and found the back of the net. Unfortunately, Middlebury’s Nuala O’Donohoe struck back twice to put the Panthers ahead. Though Martin tied up the score with less than 16 minutes to go in the first half, O’Donohoe had the assist on the next Midd tally and scored once more to put Amherst behind for good.

Though Middlebury led by five goals with five minutes remaining in the half, Amherst refused to give up. Senior tri-captain Jackie Sargent and Martin both scored to cut the deficit to three before the buzzer sounded.

The second half continued in much the same manner, with strong Middlebury runs punctured by briefer offensive spurts from Amherst.

“We expected Middlebury to come at us with their typical zone defense,” said senior tri-captain Allison Aldrich. “Instead, they played tightly man-to-man and we didn’t adjust very well.”

The Panthers ran the score up to 13-5 with five straight goals in the first part of the second half before Harmeling scored with 14:02 to go. The Panthers struck back quickly before the Jeffs mustered their final run, scoring three straight to leave them six goals behind with 7:05 remaining. However, three more goals from Middlebury in the waning minutes placed the game out of Amherst’s reach.

O’Donohoe scored an impressive seven goals for Middlebury, while Amherst’s stars were Harmeling and Sargent, who netted a hat trick apiece. Martin also had two tallies. Aldrich and junior Cate Smith rounded out the scoring with one goal each. Goalkeeper Olivia D’Ambrosio ’05 saved 14 Middlebury shots. The loss dipped Amherst’s national ranking from second to fourth.

The Jeffs believe that the Panthers are beatable and are hoping for a rematch in the NESCAC Tournament. “We need to play more consistently and have fewer turnovers if we want to beat Middlebury,” said Aldrich.

Saturday’s loss marked the end of a busy period in the Amherst schedule, as the Jeffs played four conference games in just eight days. The previous weekend, Amherst traveled to Maine to face Colby and Bates Colleges.

The story of the Maine trip was Harmeling, who has played great lacrosse for Amherst after sitting out her sophomore season with an injury. Harmeling had a whopping four goals and six assists in the Colby contest and followed up her performance with a hat trick the next day against Bates. Her efforts earned her ECAC and NESCAC Player of the Week recognition.

The Jeffs returned home with a pair of conference wins (18-10 over Colby, 17-6 over Bates) under their belts and the confidence they needed to face ninth-ranked Trinity College on March 31. In the team’s tightest game yet, the Jeffs proved their resilience with a 12-9 win. Amherst led by as many as six goals, though a late surge by Trinity made things exciting.

Amherst came back strong yesterday as the team traveled to Connecticut College and trounced the Camels, 18 to 8. Tri-captains Sargent, Martin and Aldrich teamed up to power the Jeff offense as the trio combined for 15 goals.

On Saturday the team makes the trek to Maine once again to face Bowdoin College for more NESCAC action.