Time Away Couldn't Stop Record-Setting Jane Earley


Jane Earley registered a school-record 80 goals and 99 points to help Middlebury to a 22-1 finish and another national championship.

Jane Earley spent the entire 2020-2021 school year back home on Cape Cod, waitressing every day and trying to find time amid her 12-hour shifts to work on her stick skills and at least get in a little wall ball.

It wasn’t how she’d expected to spend her third year as a Middlebury College student-athlete, but the COVID-19 pandemic kept her off campus and wiped out the entire lacrosse season while other schools around the nation resumed normal activities. The Panthers played three games in the spring of 2020 before sports shut down everywhere, and they didn’t ever get started in 2021.

Finally able to return to the lacrosse field last season, Earley was admittedly a little nervous about how much she might have lost since her freshman year, when she scored 51 goals, including four game-winners, to help the Panthers win an NCAA Division III title. The rust came off quickly, though, and Earley never looked like someone who hadn’t played competitively in two years.

Earley registered a school-record 80 goals and 99 points to help Middlebury to a 22-1 finish and another national championship — one that felt like a successfully defended title, though Tufts won it in 2021. With expectations for more of the same in 2023, Earley is the USA Lacrosse Magazine Division III Women’s Preseason Player of the Year.

“I think taking two years off mostly for the purpose of lacrosse is a scary idea because you’re not picking up a stick as much as you want, you’re not at practice two hours a day,” Earley said. “When we came back, a lot of the other teams had a season in 2021. Tufts had played, a lot of the southern teams, so it was a question of, were we playing catchup a little bit? To be able to pop back onto the scene so quickly and with such strength, especially playing freshmen and sophomores that hadn’t had a season yet, and juniors even, it felt really good.”

Earley said her job waitressing in Woods Hole, Mass., “wasn’t the most glamorous” way to spend the time away from school, but last season made that time not feel like such a loss. She trained with her old Laxachusetts club team when she could, practicing with high school kids just to at least have some semblance of competition, but Earley said she didn’t get as much time with a stick in her hand as she would have liked.

When students returned to campus in the fall, the NESCAC allowed coaches to attend fall practices since so many schools had been off for almost two years. Earley said that helped the Panthers come in better prepared for the spring, and it gave her a chance to get back some of her sharpness.

“I think a lot of our game in the NESCAC is using our brains more than our bodies, so while my stick skills were a little rusty that fall, I still had the tactics and plays in mind, so that made it easier,” Earley said. “I was a little rusty on stick skills but ready to go. Everything gets dusted off quickly because you’re so happy to be back.”

Earley especially had to adjust quickly. Although she had missed two important seasons after a breakout year, defenders played her like a seasoned attacker. She went from  being happy to just contribute in 2019 to being the attacker opponents keyed in on stopping.

They weren’t usually successful. She was held scoreless just once, in the team’s lone loss in the NESCAC final against Tufts, and only two other teams kept her from scoring multiple goals. Even in the Final Four, after suffering a bad ankle sprain in the final five minutes of practice the Friday before, Earley couldn’t be slowed. She tallied a season-high six goals and seven points in the final against Tufts, and she had a season-high three assists to go with three goals in the semifinals against Gettysburg.

“It wasn’t a surprise to see her have a very successful year even after all that time off,” Middlebury coach Kate Livesay said. “The biggest change was that as a junior, she was more established and there was a different dynamic at play. Not only are you trying to play your best at a super high level but also organizing teammates. I think that’s where the most growth was. She was able to balance both of those and was not consumed by one or the other. She managed it beautifully.”

Livesay called Earley “the whole package” of what a coach would want in an attacker. Earley says her biggest challenge in 2023 will be continuing to build awareness of how defenses are playing her, but she’s learned to keep her eyes up more to read where the double teams are coming from so she can hit a teammate or create for herself.

As for the team, the goal is another title, but this time, with a NESCAC championship to go with it.

“This season will be different because we do have a lot of returners,” Earley said. “Last year, it was like eight players that had experienced an entire lacrosse season at Middlebury, so now we bring back a lot of players and that takes some weight off my shoulders. Middlebury wants to compete at the highest level, and that’s an expectation we all have so I think we will be able to reload pretty well.”


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