Eagle goalie tops Independent’s field hockey all-star team

ADDISON COUNTY — It was a season of change for the three local high school field hockey programs, but one thing this season remained the same for Mount Abraham even as the program enjoyed a remarkable bounce-back season: The Eagles got fine goaltending from senior Lizzie Huizenga for the fourth year in a row.
This fall, Huizenga’s work in the cage for Coach Mary Stetson’s 10-5-1 Eagles earned her the title of Addison Independent Player of the Year as well as recognition as one of the state’s top goalies. Unsurprisingly, another five Eagles who helped Mount Abe return as a force in Vermont field hockey after a few down seasons are honored as members of the 2012 Addison Independent Field Hockey All-Star Team.
The change at Otter Valley came at the top: Coach Stacey Edmunds-Brickell stepped in as the program’s leader. On the field, the results were comparable to those in recent years, a solid 7-6-2 record that included only two losses to Division II competition for the D-II Otters, one by a single goal to eventual champion Harwood in the quarterfinal round. Three Otters earned spots on the Independent team.
The change for Coach Kelley Higgins’ Middlebury squad came, understandably, in the results. After losing 10 seniors to graduation from the 2011 D-I championship squad, the Tigers won just once. What remained the same, however, was solid team chemistry and wire-to-wire effort in every game. Two tireless midfielders who set that tone are recognized here.
Selections were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches; as always, leadership and intangibles count. Congratulations to the following:
LIZZIE HUIZENGA, MOUNT ABE SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Four-year member of the Eagle varsity and full-time starting goalie for three years who recorded eight shutouts … Allowed 13 goals in 15-plus games this fall while being credited with 107 saves … Showed great timing, speed and courage in ranging out of the goal to make stops or break up plays … Terrific reflexes in making saves on hard and close-range shots … Good communicator who directed the defense and often triggered the attack with her clears.
Stetson’s quotes: “She’s quick, with great reaction time … She emerged as a defensive leader … Lizzie was fearless and was the anchor of our defense … Lizzie not only has a great reaction to the initial shot but disrupts the offense while intercepting cross passes and aggressively clearing the ball. Our offense starts with Lizzie … She is the true quarterback of the defense.”
TIFFANY DANYOW, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Relentless central midfielder and team leader with a strong competitive drive and skills to match … Never stopped battling regardless of the score or game situation … Moved up from central defense and brought defensive skills with her, and used her stickhandling, passing and hard drives to trigger the Tiger attack … Scored twice and assisted a goal.
Higgins’ quotes: “Tiffany was such a pivotal leader for the team this year … She came to practice every day ready to work and set the tone … She was a force in the midfield, usually matched up against the strongest players in the state … Because of her our games were much closer than the score usually indicated … She has great speed, especially with the ball, and great anticipation, especially in the defensive circle … I can’t wait to watch her play at the next level.”
MADI WOOD, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Smart, tireless and talented midfielder who played both the right side and the middle … Led local midfielders with three goals and recorded an area-high five assists … Adept stickhandler with the ability to dodge defenders and find open lanes to thread passes … Strong defensive player who made a number of key stops in the circle.
Stetson’s quotes: “She has individual stick skills and great ability to see the field and make great passes … She displays strong leadership skills … Madi has a passion for the game of field hockey and has used the offseason to develop her individual skills and confidence as a player.”
SOPHIA PELUSO, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Always hardworking athlete who had the speed and stick skills to be a presence at left midfield for MUHS … Never gave up on plays, won most 50-50 balls, and if not would pursue tirelessly … Good one-on-one and team defender who reads passing lanes well … Created chances for the Tiger offense with smart passing and ball-carrying and picked up an assist.
Higgins’ quotes: “Sophia is a true coach’s player. She pushes herself at practice, asks questions … She goes to every ball hard and most often gets there first because of her quickness, and then uses her speed to transition the ball up field … She plays like an Energizer bunny … Her decision-making keeps getting better and better.”
SAMANTHA REISS, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Solid, two-way right and center middie who helped the Eagles possess the ball and control the middle of the field to keep the pressure on opponents … Stepped into the attack, scoring two goals and assisting on another … Often disrupted other teams by picking off passes or dispossessing opponents.
Stetson’s quotes: “She has strong stick skills … Sam’s an offensive threat on penalty corners, with a good initial shot from the corner injection … She never tires and was able to stop the opposition’s offense and put us right back on the attack … She has a great explosive step to the ball. Her ability to help us sustain the attack enabled our offense to score goals.”
SARAH HEFFERNAN, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Four-year varsity forward who capped off her career by scoring a local high of eight goals, including the overtime score in the Eagles’ quarterfinal win, and added two assists … Dangerous finisher in front of the cage, both by getting her stick on teammates’ passes and by being first to the ball in scrambles … Improved her open-field skills this fall and became a threat anywhere in the offensive end.
Stetson’s quotes: “Sarah was our offensive leader … She developed strong stick skills in tight spaces … She was the catalyst for our offense … Sarah knew she could make a difference for us this season and worked hard in the offseason to further develop her skills.”
BRITTANY BUSHEY, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Poised and talented athlete who continued to develop her field hockey ability and skills in her third year in the sport, scoring six goals and adding three assists while splitting time between right inner and right wing … Tireless, speedy player with good field vision and a habit of winning the ball, and of re-defending when it was lost.
Edmunds-Brickell’s quotes: “She had great stickwork. She’s quick. She’s level-headed … She was involved in 85 percent of our offense … She was great to have on the team … She’s a quiet leader … I don’t think she’s done growing as a player. I think she’s going to be even stronger and better next year.”
HAILEY SAYLES, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Speedy, relentless forward who contributed six goals and an assist this fall … Always seemed to be around the ball in the circle and in the right place, and had the skill to finish … Showed a knack for winning the ball, and constantly pressured the defense with or without possession.
Stetson’s quotes: “She was quick and opportunistic … Hailey always looked to get the ball to the circle … Her strong stick skills enabled her to become a real offensive threat … Hailey always hustled and kept the play alive for us … Her ability to come out of the crowd with the ball proved invaluable this season.”
ANNA THOMPSON, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Quick, reliable defender who played centrally for the Eagles … Often not only broke up opponents before they reached the Eagle circle, but also had the skills and vision to trigger the Mount Abe transition back into offense … Capable of stepping into the attack and picked up an assist.
Stetson’s quotes: “She has strong defensive ability and great speed … Often she had the job of marking the opposition’s best offensive threat, and she embraced the challenge … She has great repossession skills and strong hits which slowed down our opponents and helped us mount an attack.”
OLIVIA BLOOMER, OV JUNIOR. Notes: First-year field hockey player whose speed and athletic ability allowed her to make an immediate impact at central defense … Started as a midfielder and willingly moved back to defense when asked … Good individual and team defender who became adept at carrying the ball out of trouble.
Edmunds-Brickell’s quotes: “I asked if she would play defense, and she said, ‘Wherever you need me.’ I think that says a lot about a player … She was committed from day one to the team … She really became a solid player for us back there … She had a great attitude, very positive … I think she had a really quick understanding of the game.”
MERANDA BASSETTE, OV SENIOR. Notes: Three-year starter in the back of the OV defense who played centrally this year and helped the Otters hold foes to 18 goals in 15 games … Has excellent hand-eye coordination that allowed her to block many dangerous balls … Reliably hit the ball out of trouble when under pressure or during dangerous scrambles in front of the goal.
Edmunds-Brickell’s quotes: “We’ve called her our rock all season long … We always felt like very little was getting by her … She had a heck of a drive … She always knew where the ball was and where she needed to be in relation to it. She had a really good read of the field … She had a great attitude, really supportive of her teammates.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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