Skip to main content
Middlebury women’s lacrosse player Hope Shue shoots over and through a sea of Salisbury defenders.

Dynasty Mode: Middlebury Leaves No Doubt in Division III Women’s Final

May 26, 2024
Ray Cox
Keith Lucas/Sideline Media Productions

SALEM, Va. – Middlebury College’s women’s lacrosse powerhouse flirted with the running clock before the first half of the NCAA Division III title game was done. With 9 minutes 20 seconds left in the game against Salisbury University, the defending champs made that timer roll at last.

After Niki Mormile took Caroline Adams’ deft feed and netted the Panthers’ 15th goal the pace quickened en route to the team’s 16-5 runaway and third national crown in a row.

Salisbury, the 2021 champ generated its best attacking scheme of the contest early in the second half and trimmed Middlebury’s nine-point intermission lead to 12-5 with Meredith Price’s score at 6:16 of the third. The Panthers then scored the last four and that was that.

That made 51 wins in a row for the Panthers (24-0) . As somebody pointed out later, given Middlebury missed the 2021 final that Salisbury claimed and the 2020 COVID-19 blackout, Middlebury has not lost the last game of the season since it was national runner-up in 2018. Put another way, the program has won four of the last five national crowns.

Further, Middlebury has now won nine NCAA crowns since 1997. This makes the fifth of those squads to finish undefeated and the first of those in 20 years.

That’s about as dynastic as dynasties get.

Junior Kelcey Dion among current stalwarts – she had two goals and as many assists – probably could have spoken for Panthers present and past when she said: “For us it’s just about enjoying every moment. It’s not about survival it’s about embrace it and have some fun out there.”

The fun started with heat and humidity and a 5-1 first quarter in which Middlebury launched nine shots to the Sea Gulls’ three.

“When you can tack on some early goals back-to-back and really start to put the other team under pressure they start to make different decisions; they get more uncomfortable and more rushed,” Panthers coach Kate Livesay said.

Hope Shue, a two-time IWLCA All America, scored twice in that quarter on the way to four goals on five shots. She continued to dominate whenever she was on the field at Roanoke College’s Kerr Stadium. She was particularly effective and deadly on the edge of the center circle and ended with seven draw controls. Adams had six more of those from inside the circle, which Middlebury owned 17-7.

“It’s always a momentum switch when a team starts coming up with the draw,” Shue said.

That led the way to a tremendous amount of balanced scoring, which will be a hallmark of this final four for the Panthers. Seven Panthers scored Sunday; it was 10 in the semifinal win over Franklin & Marshal.

“You look at the draw controls and obviously that was a big factor but at both ends of the field we could have played a lot better especially with the adjustments we were trying to make,” said Salisbury coach Jim Nestor, whose Sea Gulls have won four national championships in his 23 season at his post.

Credit the Middlebury defense for its misery-making. Salisbury (18-5) came in averaging 13.1 goals and 34.4 shots per game. Against Middlebury the Gulls’ shots were almost 15 under their average.

“Our D was really connecting on their slides and really minimizing the looks and our draw control team did so well,” Livesay said. “Our defense was much better today. We never had to change out of our zone. That kept us feeling really good.”

Freshman Elizabeth Savage, who got her first start in the Middlebury cage the last game of the regular season, was stellar the last two game and had six saves in the final. Doubtless defenders Chloe Newman, Grace Mumford, Haley Newman, and Caroline Messer were a great comfort to the young keeper.

Meredith Price and Miranda Mears each scored twice for Salisbury. Erin Scannel took Alexandra Parker’s assist and fired in the first goal of the game. It was the only time Middlebury trailed this weekend.

Sophomore Julianna Ott led the Gulls with four draw controls, a factor in her team’s best offensive stretch of the game, their two-goal third.

“It was a great game for us,” Livesay said. “It’s hard to be at this stage of the tournament and play a complete game.”