MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School girls’ lacrosse team had little trouble with a longtime rival on Friday, when the Tigers thumped Mount Anthony, 18-5.
Nine Tigers scored, led by sophomore middie Emily Robinson’s five goals, as MUHS improved to 2-1.
The Tigers’ only loss has come to a 4-1 Rutland team in their opener, and in that 10-8 road setback MUHS played without senior standout midfielders Chrissy Ritter and Brandi Whittemore.
More importantly, the Tigers believed they showed better on Friday than they did in topping Division II title contender Burr & Burton, 11-4, two days before.
“I thought we played awesome as a team,” said Ritter, a co-captain who chipped in with three goals and two assists against the 2-1 Patriots. “Almost everyone had a goal. We finally got to connect as a team. Our midfield transition was finally good. We were catching and passing. It was really exciting to see.”
Coach Kelley Higgins also was happy about what she saw as improvement, especially with a game looming on Tuesday at defending D-I champion South Burlington, a rematch of the 2011 final.
“We always have offensive and defensive goals before the start of a game, and they worked on those throughout the course of this game. Our cuts were better. We’re learning that although we’re not always going to get the ball on a cut, they’re useful cuts. And I saw some great doubling up by the defense, and that was the other focus,” Higgins said. “And I loved the fact that we had multiple scorers. I’m excited for all of them.”
MAU goalie Shelby Wicks had two of her seven saves early to keep the Tigers at bay, but Robinson converted a free position shot at 20:12 to break the ice.
The game remained close for another 10 minutes. The Patriots scored on solo runs by midfielders Lily Taub and Colleen Hendery, while the Tigers countered with two goals from freshman attacker Emily Kiernan (on nice feeds from Robinson and freshman middie Julia Rosenberg) and a Robinson goal at 11:23 on a rebound.
Then the Tigers took complete control with five goals in 1:41, with the first coming from Robinson at 8:31 with an assist from Ritter.
At 7:28, Robinson set up senior Hannah Quinn for the first of four Tiger goals in 38 seconds. The Tigers then won three consecutive draws, allowing Quinn to score from Robinson, Robinson to find the net with a set-up from Rosenberg, Ritter to race in and score solo, and sophomore atttacker Kiera Kirkaldy to convert a feed from Whittemore at 6:50. When the dust settled, the Tigers led, 9-2.
In the meantime, when the Patriots occasionally got past the Tigers’ fierce checking at midfield, the Tiger defenders — seniors Eva Pratt and Nikki Boudah, junior Tiffany Danyow and sophomore Olivia Carpenter — rarely allowed them to get a good look at senior MUHS goalie Maria Ploof (six saves).
At the half, the Tigers led, 11-2, as Ritter and freshman midfielder Katie Holmes tacked on goals in the final 17 seconds.
In the second half, the Tigers kept up the pressure at midfield and continued to frustrate the Patriots as they tried to move the ball up the field.
“At halftime we said let’s use this as an opportunity to work on the ride, and I thought we did that really well today,” Higgins said.
Adding second-half goals for MUHS were sophomore Julia Cluss, Robinson, Quinn, senior attacker Eliza Mayer, Kiernan (from sophomore middie Sophia Abdul-Sater), Abdul-Sater, and Ritter.
Sophomore Emily Cross scored twice, and senior Paige Levesque, playing on an injured knee that MAU coach Tommy Otero said will soon undergo a season-ending operation, tallied for MAU after the break.
This season, the Tigers will have to rely on the continued development of many younger players who are learning at the varsity level, and Ritter saw positives in that department on Friday.
“Their confidence has definitely been building,” she said. “They’re just helping us out a lot.”
Because South Burlington returns most key players from its 2011 championship team, it’s difficult for the Tigers to predict a title this spring. But Ritter said she likes the direction of a team that may stand as good a chance as any to make a run at the Rebels.
“I think our chemistry is really great. Everyone loves each other, and we have a great time together,” Ritter said. “I think our team is definitely building towards being really good.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org