BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School field hockey team needed a second-half goal to earn a 1-1 tie with visiting Metro Conference foe Burlington on Thursday; but Eagles missed an opportunity to pick up points in the Division II standings by defeating a mid-pack D-I foe.
The Eagles’ record stands at 6-3-1 and in third place in D-II behind undefeated Rice and 8-2 Otter Valley, while Burlington (3-4-2) slipped past Middlebury into seventh place in D-I with the road tie.
Coach Mary Stetson said her Eagles probably didn’t play their A game against a physical Seahorse team that despite its losing record has been competitive.
“We have to come and work hard every time you play in the Metro,” Stetson said. “And today we learned the lesson when you don’t work hard that’s what happens to you.”
Still, Stetson was happier with her team’s efforts in the second half and overtime, and her defense — junior Gabrielle Ryan and senior Anna Thompson in the middle, senior Melinda Lathrop on the left, and two juniors sharing time on the right, Jen Gordon and Vanessa Malloy — allowed only three shots on goal and two penalty corners.
“We learned to play from behind today. We tied,” Stetsons said. “I thought that in overtime we did a good job possessing the ball.”
As usual, her midfield trio of seniors Sam Reiss, Madi Wood and Sara Cousino also dictated play for long stretches.
“Our midfield did fine. They’re never our issue. They work hard,” Stetson said.
Most of the first half was played at midfield. The Eagles managed just two shots, and the Seahorses scored on their only shot. Mount Abe did mount some pressure with about 10 minutes to go, but sophomore Kennady Roy, senior Gabby Schlein and Wood couldn’t quite finish in two scrambles.
The Seahorses scored at 0:58. BHS standout center middie Ilona Maher started the play, winning and sending the ball to Madison Archibald on the right side. Archibald drove it from 35 yards out toward the right post, and Monica Weltman picked the ball up inside the circle and knocked it inside the near post.
“I knew that was going to be a goal at the 50-yard line,” Stetson said. “We just were watching the ball.”
The strike seemed to light a fire under the Eagles, and they stormed the other end. But BHS goalie Devin Libby kicked away senior Eagle forward Hailey Sayles’ attempt to stuff the ball home at the right post, and it was 1-0, Seahorses, at the half.
But not for long. In the first minute of the second half, Reiss drove a hard, long ball from the right side to the top of the BHS circle. It deflected off a Seahorse stick toward the right post, and a streaking Sayles banged it back inside the left post to tie the game.
The Seahorses had a couple moments the rest of the way, and Eagle sophomore goalie Danielle Morse made one fine second-half save on Maher after she walked through a crowd and fired from close range with 17 minutes to go.
But the Eagles had more chances. One drive from Reiss, who repeatedly created opportunities with strong hits into the circle, nearly deflected home in the eighth minute, and Libby denied Wood a minute later.
In overtime, Morse stopped Maher again for her only other save, and Ryan and Cousino made crucial defensive plays. Then came the Eagles’ golden chance to win. Senior forward Sam Driscoll slid the ball to senior Bailey Sherwin, who fired at the left corner with a minute to play. But Libby (five saves) flashed her right pad to kick the bid wide and preserve the tie.
Stetson said she thought the Seahorses’ physical style threw the Eagles somewhat off-stride, and was happy they fought through that to earn points from the game.
“We persevered. We got the job halfway done,” she said.
But with the postseason looming and playoff positioning as well as the quality of play down the stretch being important, Stetson said the Eagles will need to buckle down.
“We’ve got a lot to work on. We’ve got to find our focus and intensity,” she said. “We’ve got two big weeks left.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]