Top-seeded Otter Valley falls in quarterfinal match

BRANDON — The finest Otter Valley Union High School field hockey season in a decade came to a stunning conclusion on Friday, when No. 8 Woodstock knocked off the top-seeded Otters, 2-1, in a double-overtime Division II quarterfinal in Brandon.
Blake Wardwell’s second goal of the game and fourth in two playoff contests came with 15 seconds left in the final overtime period and gave the 8-8 Wasps the win. Wardwell also scored twice in Woodstock’s 2-0 first-round win on Wednesday over No. 9 Mount Abraham. The Wasps advanced to a semifinal date with No. 4 Milton.
The Otters finished at 12-2-1 under first-year coach Gary Hodder and saw their 13-game unbeaten streak snapped. They had not lost since an opening 2-1 overtime setback at D-I No. 4 seed Rutland. That unbeaten string included two wins over the Wasps, 1-0 in overtime at OV on Sept. 18 and 5-1 in Woodstock just nine days before.
OV lost despite out-shooting Woodstock, 20-5, and amassing an incredible 24-2 advantage in penalty corners.
“We did everything but score,” Hodder said. “We were in their end 90 percent of the time … Shot after shot, corner after corner, we just couldn’t get it over the line.”
Hodder also credited Woodstock for its inspired play.
“Woodstock played above themselves. They were a different team,” he said.
Wasp goalie Julie Boyd’s 19 saves also proved critical. Hodder said Boyd “played fantastically” and made outstanding stops in the early going that gave the Wasps the belief they could compete.
“She made a couple saves in the first five minutes not many keepers could make,” he said.
Still, OV took the lead two minutes into the second half, as sustained pressure — much of it generated, Hodder said, by middie Kristy Pinkham, right wing Aliza Hayes and inners Emily Waldrip and Shayna McDonough — finally paid off with a McDonough goal.
That lead stood up for 22 minutes, until the Wasps finally created some momentum and got a ball past OV goalie Chelsea Robbins. It hit a defender in the leg on the way into the cage, a violation, and Woodstock was awarded a penalty stroke. Wardwell whipped it home, and the game was tied.
Hodder said play was more even after that score, although the Otters still had good chances. Finally, Wardwell ended the game with 15 seconds left. Had she not scored, the result would have been determined by penalty strokes.
Hodder said every Otter who stepped on the field on Friday contributed.
“They all played well. They all gave 100 percent and worked hard,” he said.
And he didn’t second-guess any of his own tactical moves. The Otters stuck with the direct, aggressive approach that served them well all fall, he said.
“I can’t really see anything that I would have done differently,” he said.
Six seniors played their last games for OV on Friday: Waldrip, McDonough, forwards Chelsea Greeno and Sarah Stanley, midfielder/defender Tanya Averill and defender Harley Fjeld.
Hodder said they were part of team that has much to be proud of, not only their record but also their progress in blending their individual talents into a unit.
“They came so far. They’re such a good team now,” he said. “They need to look back and see where we came from.”

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