Eagle field hockey overwhelms Spaulding

BRISTOL — The No. 3 Mount Abraham Union High School field hockey team did not necessarily have a better record than No. 6 Spaulding entering Friday’s Division II quarterfinal: The Eagles were 7-3-3, compared to the Tide’s 9-5.
But the Eagles earned their record in what is easily Vermont’s toughest field hockey league, the Metro Conference, of which the Eagles are the only D-II member.
On Friday, it showed: Mount Abe welcomed Spaulding to the Metro with a 5-0 win.
Eagle coach Mary Stetson agreed afterward the Eagles’ schedule has once again toughened her team.
“Playing our schedule, your have to play your best every game,” Stetson said.
Senior forward Gabrielle Schlein, who sparked the attack with three goals vs. Spaulding, added the Eagles also were focused on playing their best on Friday.
“I just feel like we worked hard, and we were determined,” Schlein said. “We had all the skills, and it came together at the right time.”
The Eagles will next play No. 7 Harwood, the defending D-II champion, at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. That game will be played on Middlebury College’s turf field. Harwood (11-5) upset No. 2 Otter Valley on Saturday, 1-0. The Highlanders have not met the Eagles this fall. The final will be played at the University of Vermont on Saturday at a time to be announced.
The Eagles took the lead vs. Spaulding 4:27 into the game on Schlein’s first score. From the top of the circle, center middie Madi Wood found Schlein near the stroke line, and Schlein picked the lower left corner.
Wood and fellow senior middies Sam Reiss and Sara Cousino began to increasingly control the game from that point, and the chances came one after another for the Eagles. Tide goalie Allison Hinton (12 saves) denied Wood before the Eagles made it 2-0 at 17:00. Reiss served from the right side, and Hinton stopped Bailey Sherwin’s first bid, but not Sherwin’s point-blank rebound conversion.
At 12:06, Schlein made it 3-0 on a play set up by Kennady Roy. Roy stole the ball on the right side of the circle and fed Schlein, who this time picked the lower right corner. That score held at the half, as Eagle goalie Danielle Morse (four saves) turned aside the only first-half shot she saw, from Nichole Weeks.
Morse also stopped Liz Clark as the second half opened, and center back Gabrielle Ryan and Wood also made defensive plays as the Tide applied some pressure. But the Eagles soon turned the tables, and at 23:47 Sam Driscoll sent a pass in from the right side that Schlein knocked home from close range to complete the hat trick.
Schlein appreciated the ball movement.
“The assists were beautiful,” she said.
At 20:29, Driscoll completed the scoring, rapping home a left-to-right pass across the goalmouth from Hailey Sayles.
After the Eagles failed to convert chances in 0-0 ties vs. Champlain Valley and South Burlington to end the regular season, Stetson appreciated the Eagles’ hunger and execution on the attack.
“We sent a lot of balls toward the goal … and created a lot of opportunities,” Stetson said. “And we cut back to the ball … and went after the rebounds.”
Defensively, Ryan and Anna Thompson in the middle, Melinda Lathrop and then Courtney Panton on the left side, and Jen Gordon and then Vanessa Malloy on the right did a good job of protecting their goalies, Morse and then senior Jessica Martell for the final 10 minutes.
A year ago, the Eagles were upset in the playoffs. Schlein said they would be prepared moving forward. 
“We just have to give our all every second, every moment, every game,” she said.
 Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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