BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School field hockey team on Tuesday rode its usual strong defense and what was for the Otters an offensive outburst to pick up a key Marble Valley League win, 2-1, over visiting Windsor.
The 6-2 Otters passed the 5-2-1 Yellowjackets both in the MVL B Division and in the Vermont Division II standings with the victory. Unofficially, Woodstock (5-2) remains in first with more quality points in a tight D-II race.
But to senior midfielder and co-captain Kristy Pinkham, who scored both OV goals on penalty corners, it was just as important that the Otters generated chances offensively and continued to display the kind of defense and goaltending that has allowed only three goals in eight games.
“We played well. We played good as a team, and I’m really proud of our front line, because they came back well to the ball today,” Pinkham said. “And our defense held strong like always. Our defense is strong this year. Chelsea Robbins is a great goalie. We’re lucky to have her.”
Coach Gary Hodder was encouraged by his team’s eight shots on goal against a strong opponent. OV has scored just eight goals in eight games, and he believes more consistent offense added to his standout defense will be critical in the Otters’ quest for a D-II title.
“Three goals in eight games, that’s state championship (material) defensively, but .... that’s only the second time we’ve scored two goals,” Hodder said. “But we looked a bit more like scoring today, and our corners are our mainstay.”
The Otters sustained pressure early, with freshman forward Brittany Bushey, junior midfielders Aliza Hayes and Kelsey Poljacik and Pinkham keeping the ball rolling toward the Windsor end.
The Otters earned three consecutive corners in the sixth minute. On the second, sprawling Windsor goalie Katelyn Curtis made three saves before a defensive foul gave OV another corner.
On that one, Poljacik sent the ball in from the right side to Pinkham at the top of the circle. She unloaded a drive that found the lower left corner to make it 1-0 at 23:22.
Windsor’s quick and determined midfielders began to earn an edge in territory in the rest of the half, and the Yellowjackets finished with a 7-4 first-half advantage in penalty corners. But that ball possession translated into just one shot on goal, a long range bid by Kaitlin Callahan that Robbins (three saves) easily kicked aside.
The OV defense of senior co-captain Marina Vitagliano in the middle and senior Anna Morale and sophomore Meranda Bassette on the flanks simply didn’t allow Windsor much room in the circle. Vitagliano broke up two Windsor corners, and the half ended with OV still on top, 1-0.
The Yellowjackets pressured quickly in the second half, however, and the Otters were on their heels. At 22:45, Windsor knotted the score. Robbins stopped the initial shot by Aleigha Sykes, and the rebound bounced to Callahan. Callahan gave the ball back to Sykes, who tucked the ball home from short range in a crowd.
Hodder said it was the only point of the game where OV’s defense lapsed, but he enjoyed the Otters’ response.
“I was pleased with the way we recovered after giving away a silly, silly goal. They could have gotten their heads down and felt sorry for themselves, but they didn’t. They came out and they were stronger after that,” he said.
The Otters earned back-to-back penalty corners about 11 minutes in, and cashed in the second. Hayes sent the ball in from the left side to Pinkham, who grounded a shot through a maze of sticks and feet just inside the right post to make it 2-1.
The rest of the game was even, with Windsor’s slight edge at midfield failing to translate into any serious scoring chances. The Otters allowed only one penalty corner in the half, which Pinkham disrupted in the final minute, and each team finished with eight. Curtis ended with six saves in the Windsor cage, three more than Robbins, who also came out to clear balls away smartly.
Sophomore forward Mollie Johnson, junior midfielders Emma Page and Juli Kimball, and senior midfielder Brittany Hayes all also made impacts for OV.
The missing ingredient remains goals, but Hodder said the young Otter forwards have shown promise.
“They’re still learning their trade, and they need to get that killer instinct to pounce on the ball,” he said. “The more games we play the better they’ll get, and the more likely we are to score.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]