LEWISTON, Maine -- No. 5 nationally ranked Middlebury outscored the No. 14 Bates women's lacrosse team 5-1 in the second half, erasing a 5-2 halftime deficit to win the teams' NESCAC contest 7-6 on Saturday at Garcelon Field.
Bridget Instrum scored twice for the Panthers (9-1, 6-1 NESCAC) in the final 14:18, including the unassisted game-winner with 7:23 remaining, sharing the team scoring lead with Alli Sciarretta, who scored twice and assisted on Instrum's first tally. Cat Lincoln added a goal and an assist.
The final result was the closest of Middlebury's nine victories this season, and it represented the fourth time in Bates' past five games that the Bobcats (7-5, 3-4 NESCAC) have lost by a one-goal margin in comeback fashion.
Katie Ritter and Hannah Deoul caused three Bates turnovers apiece, and Catherine Fowler shared the game lead with three draw controls.
Middlebury goalie Alyssa Palomba and Bates sophomore goalie Hannah Jeffrey (Greenwich, Conn.) totaled five saves apiece.
Bates senior Wally Pierce (Weston, Mass.) had two goals, one assist, three draw controls and two ground balls to lead the Bobcats. Sophomore Emma Noto (Portland, Ore.) scored her first two goals of the season, and senior Bridget Meedzan (Ipswich, Mass.) tallied a pair of assists.
Bates attempted just four shots in the second half, compared to nine for Middlebury. Middlebury also controlled five out of seven draws in the second half, after the teams were 4-4 in that category in the opening stanza.
Pierce scored the game's first two goals, at the 26:51 and 25:04 marks of the first half. The Panthers were beset by turnovers in the early going and had yet to enter Bates' defensive zone before Pierce's game-opening goal.
Middlebury turned the ball over after its first clear into Bates territory, and a senior Blair Shrewsbury (Boxford, Mass.) interior pass to Pierce for the finish made it 2-0 with 25:04 to go.
Two minutes later, Lisa Herzog's diagonal cross to Sciarretta put the Panthers on the board 2-1 at 23:04.
With 16:51 to go, the Panthers evened the game up. Mary O'Connell scooped a loose ball near Bates' right goalpost and wedged the ball past Jeffrey to tie the game 2-2.
Soon after, however, after a Middlebury midfield turnover, Noto was fouled near the Panther goal and converted the free-position attempt for her first goal of the season, giving Bates the lead back at 3-2.
Noto's score began a 3-0 Bates run to finish out the opening half. After a restart close to the the Middlebury goal, Pierce's pass to Noto was flipped overhand for a 4-2 Bates lead with 9:29 to go. And with under nine seconds left in the period, the Bobcats made it 5-2. Meedzan's high pass off of the right goalpost was snagged by a leaping sophomore Kelan McCann (Shrewsbury, Mass.), who redirected the ball down and past Palomba, bringing the loudest cheers of the day from the crowd.
Middlebury's Laurel Pascal scored unassisted with 23:03 left in the second half, and was the Panthers' lone goal over a span of more than 32 minutes on the game clock.
Bates regained a three-goal edge with 17:55 to go in the second half, finishing off a very long possession with the lone shot of the possession, an overhand volley by first-year Kaileigh Maguire (Sudbury, Mass.) at the front of the goal off an assist by junior Kathy Yannopoulos (Simsbury, Conn.) from behind the cage.
But Maguire's tally was the only goal of the period for the Bobcats -- and Bates' only second-half goal in the past two games.
Middlebury drew back within two when Lincoln's diagonal entry pass was caught by Sciarretta, who shot from the middle of the circle past Jeffrey to make it 6-4 with 14:48 left.
Gaining clear momentum, Middlebury scores again 30 seconds later, with Sciarretta finding Instrum, making it 6-5 with 14:18 to go and prompting a Bates timeout.
Lincoln then tied the game for the first time since it was 2-2, 8:29 on an assist by Delaina Smith with 8:29 to go, on a shot that was blocked by Jeffrey but still managed to dribble over the goal line.
Bates then allowed a nightmare of a goal that gave the Panthers their first lead. With Middlebury attackers pressuring Bates' defenders on their clear attempt, a Bates pass was picked off by Instrum directly in front of Bates' goal, and the Middlebury sophomore shot into an empty goal for the 7-6 lead with 7:23 left.
Over the game's final seven minutes, Palomba made the save on Bates' only shot, a free-position attempt by Pierce with 1:13 to go. Middlebury attempted no shots in that span, and both teams traded five turnovers.
Bates was playing without the conference's leading scorer, sophomore Moriah Greenstein (Glenmont, N.Y.), who was injured during Wednesday night's game at Bowdoin. Greenstein has 23 goals and 25 assists -- only one assist shy of the team's single-season record.
Bates next plays at Tufts on April 15 at 4:30.