May 2, 2009

Bubble Trouble?: Colby Hammers Middlebury

from press releases

MEDFORD, Mass. --- The champs are back in the New England Small College Athletic Conference title game.

The third-ranked Colby College women's lacrosse team, the defending NESCAC champions, exploded for 11 goals in the second half to knock off ninth-ranked Middlebury College for the second time this season in a 17-12 victory in a conference semifinal game Saturday at Tufts University.

The second-seeded Mules, now 15-1 overall and winners of 14 straight games, set a program record for wins in a season heading into Sunday's NESCAC title game against fifth-seeded Williams College. The Ephs took an 11-10 double overtime win over top-seeded Tufts in the other league semifinal game.

Colby showed its depth and explosiveness after Caroline Atwater, the team's eighth leading scorer, led the way with three goals and two assists. Atwater had two of the goals in the second half when the Mules turned a 6-6 halftime tie into a 13-7 lead when she tallied with 15:57 to play.

"I was really proud of (Atwater)," Colby head coach Karen MacCrate Henning said. "She took smart shots and when she didn't have it, she didn't force it."

Kate Sheridan reached 290 career points (181 goals, 109 assists) with two goals and two assists for the Mules. Sheridan is up to 34 goals and 47 assists for 81 points this season.

Amy Campbell has 10 goals in the NESCAC tourney after scoring three and dishing one assist for Colby. Mule co-captain Cary Finnegan added two goals and one assist, while Becky Julian, Heather Nickerson, and Kathleen Kramer all had two goals. First-year midfielder Claire Donegan dished three assists and Carly Rapaport had one goal. Finnegan also had two of Colby's 18 draw controls and added one caused turnover.

"Cary is just so versatile,"  MacCrate Henning said. "Whatever we need, she does it. You can just plug her in anyplace on the field."

Middlebury (9-5) got off to 2-0 and 4-2 leads in the opening 21 minutes of the half.  The Mules, though, scored four straight goals in a span of just under five minutes to turn the deficit into a 6-4 lead. The Panthers did claw back with two goals in the final 2:07 to forge the halftime tie.

"Defensively, we talked about stepping up and not letting their go-to players control the tempo of the game," MacCrate Henning said. "And on attack we wanted to settle down a little and take more time, not force so many shots. We did a much better job of that in the second half."

After trading goals to start the second half, Colby  went on a 6-0 scoring run to take control. Nickerson had back-to-back goals to start the run and Atwater also had two goals during that time. The Panthers got as close as 16-11 with 4:41 to play, but Campbell netted an unassisted goal with 2:28 to play for the Mules' final goal.

Sarah Warnke stopped eight shots in goal for the Mules to move to 23-4 in net over the past two years.

Colby moves to 10-0 in away and neutral site games this season. The Mules are looking to become the first Colby team ever to win two NESCAC titles.

"I think the team is having fun and playing together. I know it sounds funny, but they are just enjoying their time together," MacCrate Henning said. "There is no pressure and they are just playing. I think that's an important thing for tomorrow and for any of our future games."

Williams is in the NESCAC title game for the first time ever after going 0-7 in semifinal games before breaking that run against the Jumbos. Colby took a 9-8 win over the Ephs in the first game of the regular season in Williamstown. Colby, however, was playing without Julian and Nickerson at that time because of ice hockey commitments.

"I was impressed that (Williams) got down by two goals in overtime and came back," MacCrate Henning said. "They were fighting with everything they had."

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