A back-and-forth defensive battle eventually saw Franklin & Marshall’s No. 6 ranked field hockey team surrender a late fourth-quarter goal in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to No. 2 Middlebury in Sunday’s NCAA Division III National Championship game.
The Diplomats’ storybook season came to a close with a 20-4 record while the Panthers captured their third-consecutive National Title with a 21-1 mark.
“I kept telling them to enjoy every moment,” said head coach Kaitlyn Eager of her team’s experience during the final weekend. “Keep enjoying the little winning moments. What we’ll remember most about this season is the fun times on the bus, the great relationships we built.”
The 2019 season goes down as the most successful in F&M field hockey history as the Diplomats earned national runners up status for the first time since 1981 and secured the most wins ever by a Diplomat team.
F&M went 4-1 in the National Tournament, highlighted by an upset of No. 1 TCNJ in the Sweet 16 and avenging a pair of setbacks against Johns Hopkins with a 3-1 win over the Blue Jays in Final Four.
Three Diplomats were named to the All-Tournament Team: Katie Roper, Lily Mynott, and Melissa Gula.
Both defenses stole the show through the opening 50 minutes of play, limiting scoring chances in the offensive thirds with clutch tackles. Eventually, it was Middlebury who broke through with a 54th-minute score off an arching, backhanded shot at the top of the circle that made its way into the back of the cage for the 1-0 edge.
F&M refused to back down. A late Diplomat push saw leading-scorer Lily Mynott storm down the field and force a corner with 2:35 remaining. Senior forward Erin Coverdale collected the ball at the top of the circle and lofted a shot that sailed just to the right of the cage.
The Panthers had a pair of scoring chances denied in the first and third quarters with timely saves by Diplomat goalkeeper Christina Seery. In the 44th minute, an F&M turnover just outside the circle led to a golden opportunity for the Panthers. However, Seery put a stop to the open look from Middlebury, getting a blocker pad on a close-range shot to the right side of the cage.
F&M had its chances as well, none better than with 30 seconds remaining in the opening half when Darby Klopp made a diving attempt at redirection off a through pass from the left side that was turned back off the goalkeeper’s pad.
Seery totaled three saves through 60 minutes while the Panthers’ Grace Harlan turned back one shot in her shutout effort.
Total shots favored Middlebury at 9-4, as well as penalty corners at 5-3. Coverdale led the F&M offense with three shots.