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Tiger girls’ lacrosse trounces MMU in rain-soaked playoff

MIDDLEBURY —The No. 2 Middlebury Union High School girls’ lacrosse team on Friday scored four times in the final 4:16 of the first half on the way to a rain-soaked, 14-7 Division I quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Mount Mansfield.
The Tigers will be seeking yet another berth in a D-I final when they host No. 3 Mount Anthony (13-6) on Tuesday at 4 p.m., with two-time defending champion South Burlington almost certainly awaiting the winner at Castleton State College on Friday. The 14-0 Rebels will host No. 4 Brattleboro (9-7) in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
The Tigers’ decisive surge on Friday began after MMU’s Alison Chivers took advantage of a failed Tiger clear and broke in alone on MUHS sophomore goalie Baily Ryan to make it 5-3.
The Cougars won the draw, but the Tigers forced a turnover and freshman Emma Best scooped one of her game-high 10 ground balls before setting up a goal by sophomore middie Katie Holmes at 4:16.
A minute later, junior attacker Kiera Kirkaldy picked up an errant pass and fed sophomore middie Julia Rosenberg cutting into the fan, and Rosenberg made it 7-3. At 2:45, junior middie and co-captain Emily Robinson cashed in a behind-the-net feed from junior attacker Paige Viens, and it was 8-4.
The Cougars then got what could have been a momentum-changing goal at 1:13, when Marina Bowie connected for her third of the half.
But the Tigers got the ball back with seconds to go, and tossed to Emily Kiernan at midfield. Kiernan relayed to Viens on the left side of the fan, and she threw the ball over two defenders to Kirkaldy on the far side, and her 20-foot shot hit the twine as the horn sounded to make it 9-4.
Sophomore middie Sophia Peluso then scored two unassisted goals in the first four minutes of the second half, and the Tigers coasted home.
Robinson acknowledged it took the Tigers time to get untracked, but said their determination carried them.
“It was difficult in the rain with all the puddles, and we weren’t connecting,” Robinson said. “But I just think we had a lot of heart going into this, and we wanted this, and we showed that.”
Balanced scoring boosted MUHS. Nine Tigers recorded points: Peluso (three goals, assist); Robinson, Rosenberg and Kiernan (two goals and an assist apiece); Holmes (two goals); Best and Kirkaldy (goal and assist each); junior attacker Julia Cluss (goal); and Viens (two assists).
“That was one of our team goals,” Robinson said. “We wanted a lot of different scorers today.”
Coach Kelley Higgins also pointed to the Tiger defense’s continued improvement on stopping solo runs, a problem highlighted when Champlain Valley’s Kate Raszka scored 11 times vs. MUHS on May 15.
On Friday, the MUHS low defense of senior Tiffany Danyow and juniors Hannah Hobbs and Olivia Carpenter, with help from the Tiger middies, rarely allowed the Cougars uncontested looks at Ryan.
“We’ve been working really hard, probably since the CVU game … on slowing down the fast break, sliding over at the right time, that kind of thing, just the timing, and when to go, when to stay,” Higgins said. “And I just think even in these wet, slippery conditions they kept their heads about them and played really smart.”
Of the three goals managed by MMU after the break, two came from Jess Glenn on free positions, not in the run of play. Meanwhile, the Tigers continued to get good looks at MMU goalie Colby Knight, who stopped five shots.
At the other end, Ryan made 11 saves, some of them routine as the Tigers pressured Cougar shooters. But some were challenging, none better than on Hope Denison on a second-half fast break, when Ryan moved quickly to deflect a shot after a cross-crease pass.
“Baily came through,” Higgins said.
The Tigers struggled at times to clear their own end, but Higgins said the problem is correctable: They were rushing passes, some from Ryan, back into pressure.
“Even at halftime we talked about it,” Higgins said. “We did a much better job of it in the second half.”
Overall, Robinson said the Tigers will be ready on Tuesday for the Patriots, a team they defeated on the road early this season, 15-13.
“We have a lot of confidence. We have a lot of spirit going into our next game, but I don’t think we’re too confident,” Robinson said. “We’re going to be really careful and really smart with how we play, I hope.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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