Hartford, Conn. – Junior attacker Kaitlin Hildebrand (Berwyn, Pa.) scored the game-winning goal with 4.7 seconds left to lead the top-seeded Trinity College Bantams to an 11-10 victory over the visiting Middlebury College Panthers in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship Finals this afternoon on Sheppard Field. Trinity, ranked No. 4 in the nation, wins its second straight league title and earns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. No. 8-ranked Middlebury, seeded No. 3 in the tournament field, drops to 12-4 and hopes to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The win is the fifth in a row for Trinity against Middlebury and its fourth over the Panthers in the last two seasons.
Watch the game-winning goal, and post-game comments by Coach Kate Livesay, here.
Trinity held the ball for the final six minutes of the game, until senior co-captain Liz Bruno (Andover, Mass.) passed it from the right wing to junior attacker Hadley Duncan (Rye, N.Y.) who was positioned directly in front of the cage for the game-winning attempt. Duncan, who already had a hat trick in the game, mishandled the quick catch-and-shoot, but Hildebrand snatched up the loose ball and fired the clinching goal past Middlebury senior tri-captain Lily Nguyen (Oakland, Calif.). Middlebury sophomore midfielder Liza Herzog (Baltimore, Md.) and Trinity first-year midfielder Lindsay Mullaney (Boston, Mass.) had scored goals just 13 seconds apart inside the 10-minute mark to make the score, 10-10, where it remained until the closing seconds.
"At the end of the game, all we were thinking is that we had the ball and they didn't," said Trinity Head Coach Kate Livesay (6th Season). "We felt Middlebury would not extend themselves and risk giving up a goal, so we could hold it for the last shot and either win or go into overtime, and were fortunate that it worked out. Against a great team like Middlebury, we have to play great to have a chance to win, and I feel like we elevated our game today."
Trinity had opened the game with a 3-0 run, scoring off the opening draw on a running shot by first-year midfielder Caroline Hayes (Greenland, N.H.) 22 seconds into the contest, and twice more before 10 minutes had gone by. Middlebury junior Margaret Souther (Scarsdale, N.Y.) got the visitors on the board with a goal from classmate Michaela Colbert (Topsfield, Mass.) at the 20:01 mark, but the Bantams rattled off three more tallies in a row. Hildebrand scored once and assisted on a second goal during the spurt. The Panthers recovered and scored five straight times in the last 10 minutes of the first half, including a pair of unassisted goals by Herzog, and tied the contest on a bouncing free-position shot by sophomore Hannah Deoul (Stevenson, Md.) with 2:25 left before the break. Playing one player short in the final minute of the first half after a yellow card, Duncan gave Trinity back the lead and the momentum heading into halftime with consecutive goals with 36 and six seconds left, respectively.
Middlebury quickly cut the deficit back to one goal at 8-7 just 24 seconds into the second stanza when Herzog fed senior tri-captain attacker Elizabeth Garry (Mamaroneck, N.Y.), and tied it on a hard and low shot by rookie midfielder Katie Ritter (Middlebury, Vt.) from just inside the circle at the 27:07 mark. The Panthers took their first lead with 21:26 left in the game on a free-position tally by Garry only to have Duncan one-time in a pass by Bruno with 19:45 on the clock to make it a 9-9 game. After a 10-minute scoreless streak for both squads, Souther fed Herzog for a goal at 9:21 followed by a rebound shot by Mullaney that tied the game for the last time at 9:08.
Duncan finished with four points on three goals and one assist for the Trinity offense, which outshot Middlebury, 24-17, while Hildebrand, who scored in the final two minutes to force overtime in Trinity's 9-8 semifinal win against Hamilton, notched two goals and one helper, and Bruno recorded three assists and a game-high five draw controls. Herzog totaled three goals and one assist for the Panthers, while Souther had two goals and one assist, and Garry scored twice. Middlebury senior tri-captain defender Lucy Jackson (Bronxville, N.Y.) caused three turnovers, and Nguyen made eight saves, while Trinity junior goalie Olivia Whitney (Danvers, Mass.) stopped five shots.