MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- For the sixth time in the proud history of Colby College women's lacrosse, the Mules are headed to the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship game.
The fourth-seeded Mules advance to Sunday's 1 p.m. championship game against either Hamilton College or Trinity College. Those teams play in the second semifinal at Middlebury.
Colby (14-3 overall) will be looking for its third NESCAC title after winning in 2008 and 2009. The Mules are 2-3 in championship games, losing in 2007, 2010, and 2011. Colby improved to 19-14 in the NESCAC tourney since the league started a playoff system in 2001.
Colby never was rattled and played with confidence in the closing moments. Emilie Klein, the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, did the job offensively when she converted a free-position shot with 6:24 left to tie the game at 9-9.
The Panthers had two shots hit the goal post in a span of 14 seconds at 1:20 remaining and 1:06 to play. After a turnover by the Mules, Izzy Scribano made a save on Panther leading scorer Mary O'Connell with 14 seconds left.
The Panthers battled back with two straight free-position goals by Sara DiCenso and Bea Eppier to tie the contest.
"The Middlebury goalie played really well," Henning said. "We talked about making sure we took good shots and finishing on our shots."
Fritts scored an important goal with 23:46 left in the game from Lexie Perticone to put the Mules back up 7-5. Eppier and McConnell scored three minutes apart to tie the game at 7-7. Smith scored her fourth goal of the game off a pass from Gemma Bready to put the Mules back up by one goal.
The Mules helped their own cause by winning the draw control (14-7) battle and were 4-for-8 on free-position shots.
Scribano had three ground balls to go with two saves for Colby. Georgia Lubrano finished with two caused turnovers and two ground balls. Lubrano, one of the fastest Mules, played a major part in Colby's clears in the final 30 minutes. Klein had three draw controls, one caused turnover, and one ground ball.
"Maddie, Emilie, and Grace (Crowell) were huge on the draw today," Henning said. "We really needed possession against a very good Middlebury team."