Fifth-ranked Middlebury outscored #14 Bates 5-1 in the second half, erasing a 5-2 halftime deficit to earn a 7-6 NESCAC road win 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. Alli Sciarretta scored twice and assisted on Instrum's first tally, while 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 have lost by a one-goal margin in comeback fashion.
Katie Ritter and Hannah Deoul caused three Bates turnovers apiece, while Catherine Fowler shared the game lead with three draw controls.
Middlebury goalie Alyssa Palomba and Bates goalie Hannah Jeffrey totaled five saves apiece.
Wally Pierce had two goals, one assist, three draw controls and two ground balls to lead the Bobcats. Emma Noto scored her first two goals of the season, and Bridget Meedzan tallied a pair of assists.
Bates attempted just four shots in the second half, compared to nine for Middlebury. Middlebury also controlled five 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 Blair Shrewsbury interior pass to Pierce for the finish made it 2-0 with 25:04 remaining.
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.
Noto was later 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. 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 Kelan McCann, who redirected the ball down and past Palomba.
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 coming on an overhand volley by Kaileigh Maguire at the front of the goal after a feed by Kathy Yannopoulos from behind the cage.
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 when Sciarretta found Instrum, making it 6-5 with 14:18 to go and prompting a Bates timeout.
Lincoln tied the game for the first time since it was 2-2 with an assist from Delaina Smith with 8:29 to go. The shot was originally 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 clearing attempt, a pass was picked off by Instrum directly in front of Bates' goal, resulting in 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.
Middlebury will host SUNY Cortland on Thursday at 4:30 p.m., while Bates next plays at Tufts on April 15 at 4:30 p.m.