BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School field hockey team shrugged off a key injury and rallied for a 3-2 overtime win over Mount Anthony on Saturday before a happy, sun-splashed crowd at OV’s homecoming game.
The win pushed the Otters’ record under first-year coach Gary Hodder to 6-1-1, while Mount Anthony dropped to 5-2; the Patriots’ only other loss, like OV’s, was by one goal to undefeated Rutland.
Senior forward Shayna McDonough, who scored the game-winner and assisted junior middie’s Kristy Pinkham’s late game-tying goal, said the big win would give the Otters a lift.
“We beat a Division I team that is very, very good,” McDonough said. “They have some very good skills and they’re very competitive. It just works for us. It feels very good just to get this win.”
OV played most of the game without senior forward Emily Waldrip, whose knee was accidentally cut by a stick late in the first half with the score 1-1. Her status is uncertain for Tuesday’s game at Windsor — which is also undefeated in the Marble Valley League B Division.
Especially given that the Otters rallied to win on Saturday without the player Hodder called their “most potent forward,” Hodder was pleased with their effort and teamwork.
“This was our best win of the season, without a doubt,” he said. “We’ve put in some good performances, but that was our best.”
Waldrip also did some damage on the scoreboard before she left. OV took the opening faceoff down the field and drew a foul just outside the Patriot circle. Pinkham drove the free hit in, and after the ball deflected off the defense, Waldrip tucked it inside the left post at 0:22.
MAU equalized at 13:02 on a beautiful goal by talented right wing Kassie Hoag. MAU middie Annie Towslee ripped a bouncing drive in from outside the circle, and Hoag tipped it into the cage behind OV goalie Chelsea Robbins (11 saves).
Defense dominated the rest of the half, and the teams each finished with one penalty corner and one shot on goal, although Pinkham and sophomore wing Aliza Hayes each hit the side of the cage as OV had a slight edge in play. OV junior Marina Vitagliano, senior Tanya Averill and sophomore Juli Kimball anchored OV in the back, and defenders Kelsey Surdam and Amber Thomas played well for MAU.
After the break, the Patriots pressured, earning three penalty corners in the first five minutes; they held an 8-4 edge in that department. But Robbins held them at bay. Early on, the OV goalie made three saves in one sequence, then soon afterward batted away a deflection and stopped a Lizzi Curtin 10-footer. Later in the half she denied a Curtin breakaway.
MAU goalie Shelby Wicks made two saves in the half, and one was a beauty: She kicked away a Pinkham drive on a penalty corner in the 15th minute.
The Patriot pressure paid off at 23:05 on a penalty corner. The pass in went to Surdam on the left side, and she drove on goal. Robbins made the pad save, but Curtin buried the rebound to put MAU on top, 2-1.
The Otters responded and earned consecutive penalty corners. The Patriots broke up the first, when the Otters tried to set up another Pinkham smash. On the second, Pinkham instead slid the ball to McDonough, who drove the ball on Wicks. Wicks made the pad save, and Pinkham followed and slammed the ball home. At 26:38, it was 2-2.
McDonough said she and Pinkham talked before that play.
“We decided to change it up where she would pass to me, and I would go for the hit. And I hit off her pads, and she was right there for the rebound,” she said.
Before overtime, Curtin slipped past the OV defense and forced Robbins to make a pad save at the final whistle.
In the seven-on-seven OT, both teams had chances. OV middie Kelsey Poljacik, Vitagliano and Pinkham made defensive plays at one end, and Purdam stopped Hayes, Wicks (three saves overall) made a save on McDonough, Hayes shot just wide, and Towslee cleared a ball out of the goal mouth on the other.
The winning goal came on a long hit from the left side. Pinkham sent the ball into McDonough, who found herself unmarked inside the circle. She walked in on Wicks and fired the ball home inside the left post with 1:30 to go.
That play ended a game McDonough described as “very intense.”
“We played a very hard game. We never gave up. We really wanted this win,” she said. “Homecoming, we played our hearts out. We did amazing.”