Middlebury College women’s hockey players are encouraged not to dwell on their decorated past.

Go ahead, though. Even now, precisely a year later, ask Randi Dumont to describe the feeling of winning a national championship. The thoughtful, intelligent woman takes a pause. In skates the ebullient, fast-talking girl who would gladly jump into a friendly game on a frozen pond at the drop of a puck.

“It took a while to sink in,” Dumont said. “Everybody was just jumping up and down and celebrating and screaming. I didn’t come down from that high for a while.”

Dumont, who grew up in Greene, hopes to get another whiff of that thin air this weekend. Middlebury is back in the NCAA Division III final four, chasing its fourth consecutive title and sixth since 2000.

Middlebury (22-3-2) will face off with Wisconsin-Stevens Point at 3:30 p.m. Friday in the first semifinal at Plattsburgh, N.Y. With a win, the Panthers would play either unbeaten host Plattsburgh or New England Small College Athletic Conference rival Amherst in Saturday night’s title game.

Now in her sophomore season as a defensive standout, the 5-foot-2 Dumont skates into the national spotlight with five goals and five assists. Although lighting the lamp is no longer her first priority, Dumont also fashioned five goals as a freshman.

“I play defense, so I can’t really look at points,” Dumont said. “Coming in as a freshman, I just wanted to make the team. I ended up playing a regular shift, and this year has been so much better. I have a lot more confidence. I feel like my role is a lot stronger.”

During her five-year high school and prep career, Dumont made her mark as a scorer. She stormed the starting lineup and more than held her own in two years with the boys’ team at Leavitt Area High School. Three years at St. Mark’s Prep in Massachusetts strengthened her reputation.

Now in his 19th season at Middlebury, head coach Bill Mandigo recruited Dumont with an inkling that she had untapped potential as an all-purpose player.

“We’ve asked her to play a more defensive role for us but still be creative in the offensive end,” Mandigo said. “She plays with a lot of tenacity. When you have to play a defensive role, you need kids who aren’t afraid to stick their nose in there. She’s that kind of player.”

Mandigo describes Dumont as a great teammate.

“She is appreciative of everything that has been given to her,” said the coach. “She has a smile on her face all the time.”

True to her unassuming nature, Dumont had doubts about her ability to play for the Panthers while juggling Middlebury’s stringent classroom requirements.

“I thought it definitely was a stretch that I would play here. I kind of took it as a challenge. Obviously the reputation sort of lured me,” Dumont said. “Academically, I knew I was capable of doing the work. It was a matter of whether or not I wanted to do the work.”

Dumont took one look at the surroundings on her campus visit, and no further sales pitch was necessary.

“When you step on a campus, there’s a feeling you get right away when it’s the right place. You just know,” said Dumont. “It was perfect. The school was absolutely beautiful.”

The product on the ice was attractive, too. While other Division III programs work with a limited recruiting base, Middlebury’s reputation travels coast-to-coast and throughout the continent. Twenty-two players hail from 12 different states and three Canadian provinces.

Six teammates are double-digit goal scorers, giving Dumont the freedom to focus on her defensive craft.

“My boarding school team was pretty small, so I was expected to do more,” she said. “Here, I’m not the shining star player. I’m not the No. 1 point getter. I’ve adapted to my role.”

Middlebury enjoyed a 22-game winning streak this winter, but the bookends were 4-2 and 5-4 losses to Plattsburgh in November and February.

Amherst also knocked off Middlebury in triple overtime in the NESCAC final. If the Panthers add another title to the trophy case this weekend, it will be one of the hardest-earned cups on the shelf.

“Everybody knows about Middlebury. We’re the date that is circled on the calendar. We’re kind of a litmus test,” Mandigo said.

“We’re a modest team, anyway,” said Dumont. “The fact that we haven’t beaten Plattsburgh this year gives us a level head. We know that any of the four teams could take it.”

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