Field  hockey:  Eagles  nipped  by  strong  Essex  team,  2-­1

BRISTOL — Friday’s 2-1 setback to visiting Division I Essex dropped the Division II Mount Abraham Union High School field hockey team to 5-3, but even though it represented the Eagles’ third loss in four games, Coach Mary Stetson was not upset afterward.
To start with, the 5-1-2 Hornets are playing like D-I title favorites. Friday’s win was their fifth straight and the first in that stretch in which Essex has even allowed a goal.
That goal came from Eagle senior wing Sam Driscoll with 8:42 left in the game, which made the score 2-1. Driscoll tucked the ball inside the right post after junior middie Olivia Scott’s solid drive deflected there.
The score gave Mount Abe some hope for a late rally after Essex had scored twice in the first half and, Stetson said, something for the Eagles to remember.
“It was a very tough competitive game. I thought we gave them a good game,” Stetson said. “I’m proud of my team for not giving up in the second half. We take away from this that we won the second half, 1-0. We were bending, but we didn’t break, and that was what was important.”
Especially, Stetson added, against that quality of competition.
“They move the ball very well. They’re very quick. They have great stick work,” she said. “They’re probably the most solid team, I think, position for position, in the league.”
Friday’s close loss also followed a 1-0 home win on Wednesday against defending D-I champion South Burlington, and the other loss in the recent four-game stretch came at Champlain Valley, at 5-1-1 the team that is for now in first place in D-I. In that game, the Eagles held a 5-2 edge in shots on goal over the Redhawks.
In what she called an emotional win over the Rebels two days earlier, Stetson was particularly pleased with the play of her senior midfield trio of Madi Wood, Sam Reiss and Sara Cousino, and the Eagles’ team-wide commitment to defending all over the field.
“In that game our midfield probably played as good as it has played all season and really controlled things,” she said. “And they were complemented by the fact we worked as a team to double the ball and create opportunities for ourselves even when we didn’t have the ball. To do that is a lot of hard work you don’t get rewarded for. You don’t get your name in the paper.”
For the first few minutes of the Essex game, it looked like more of the same. The midfield trio won the battles, and sent senior forwards Hailey Sayles, Gabby Schlein and Driscoll on runs into the Essex end.
Stetson said a tactical change also helped.
“We put pressure on them early,” she said. “We changed some things from the last time we played them, because we were getting stuck down in the corner. We put everything on the cage.”
But the tide began to turn with Essex juniors Kathleen Young and Siera Teare winning the ball at midfield and putting pressure on the Eagle defense of senior Anna Thompson and junior Gabrielle Ryan in the middle and juniors Melinda Lathrop and Jen Gordon on the flanks.
At 19:03, Young knocked in the first Essex goal, and the field kept tilting the Hornets’ way. Late in the half, Mount Abe earned a penalty corner, but when they failed to convert it turned into an Essex fast break the other way. The Hornets finished the rush with Emily Dowman poking home a Briege Mahoney feed.
The Eagles kept plugging, and although they were outshot, 15-4, the penalty corner tally was closer, just 9-5 in favor of Essex as Mount Abe earned a little more territory in the second half.
The Eagles broke through with 8:42 to go, when Scott — who gave the Eagles a nice lift off the bench on Friday — helped set up Driscoll’s tally.
“I was proud of them for tucking that goal in there near the end,” Stetson said. “I thought maybe five more minutes more, and who knows?”
Hornet goalie Madison Corkum made two stops, while Eagle sophomore Danielle Morse submitted a solid 11-save effort.
Stetson said the Eagles are playing well, and will get even better as they spend more time on the field together and spend a little more time working on their finishing touch around the cage.
“It’s a great team,” she said. “Each person is really growing as a player.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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