Trio of Tiger goals overwhelm Eagle field hockey

BRISTOL — Coach Megan Sears said she had three challenges for her Middlebury Union High School field hockey team heading into Friday’s game at Mount Abraham: Be first to the ball, be patient on defense, and win.
Missions accomplished. The 2-1-1 Tigers dealt the 3-1 Eagles their first loss of the season, 3-0, by following those instructions.
“There was a huge fire in their bellies during warm-ups, and I think it carried through the whole game,” Sears said. “I think the girls really took to heart those three things and pulled it off.”
Junior middie Sara Kelley — who scored the first goal on a feed from junior forward Lauren Bartlett and then set up Bartlett for the second Tiger score — added teamwork to the winning formula.
“We all came out as a unit,” Kelly said. “Everything was set up so nicely today.”
Coach Mary Stetson’s defending Division II champions had improved to 3-0 two days earlier, when they had outlasted host D-I foe, Mount Mansfield, 3-2. In that game, Mount Abe got goals from freshman forward Jackie Reiss, junior middie Danielle Bachand and senior forward Bailey Sherwin, as well as seven saves from junior goalie Danielle Morse.
But Stetson did not want to talk about her team after Friday’s loss, even though the stats were even: Mount Abe led in shots at goal, 9-8, and penalty corners, 8-5, although the Eagles padded those numbers after Bartlett made it 2-0 early in the second half.    
“Middlebury did an awesome job,” Stetson said. “They played hard. They were first to the ball. They beat us in every facet of the game today, and that’s all there is to it.”  
Early on, the Tigers pressured the all-senior Eagle defense of Gabby Ryan, Jen Gordon and Vanessa Malloy. The Tiger midfield of senior Harley Downey-Teachout in the middle and Kelley and junior Tajah Marsden on the outside controlled play and set up the Tiger attackers, most notably junior Makayla Foster on the right and Bartlett in the middle.
Play evened out as Bachand and juniors Ellie Gevry and Ashley Turner began to counter in the Eagle midfield. Sherwin and sophomore Kennady Roy created chances, and Tiger senior goalie Baily Ryan made the best of her three saves on Gevry, flashing her left pad to knock a drive from top of the circle wide. Tiger senior defenders Alex Whipple and Alli White and sophomore Monroe Cromis also stood their ground.
The Tigers regained control, and their pressure paid off with 3:32 left in the half. Bartlett carried into the circle, drew a defender and dished left to Kelley, who one-timed a shot into the left corner past Morse (three saves).
The MUHS momentum carried over to the second half, when the Tigers earned three early corners and Morse stopped a Kelley bid set up by Foster. Shortly afterward, the Tigers converted after a corner. The Eagles cleared, but Marsden collected the ball outside the circle and sent the ball back toward the left post. Kelley relayed it to Bartlett for the tap-in at 22:43.
Then the Eagles came on strong. Junior forward Amelia Bruhl made a run, Roy fired wide on a feed from Reiss, and Marsden did well to break up an Eagle corner. Reiss and Roy could tip in a hard Turner serve from the right side, and a Sherwin shot forced a corner with six minutes to go. Several Eagles had chances in a scramble on that corner, but Marsden cleared. Ryan denied Roy on another corner with five minutes left.
Then the Tigers countered. Marsden carried into the Eagle end and sent Foster down the right side. Foster crossed, and freshman Lily Smith netted the clinching goal.
The Tigers’ victory followed a tough, 4-3 overtime loss to Rice on Monday and should give them a lift, Kelley said.
“We just needed that pick-me-up. It’s going to bring us to more wins,” she said.
Sears said she is happy with her team’s progress and early record.
“They are a very coachable group. I feel like I can bring very complex ideas to them,” she said. “Today was a very direct result of some of that coachability.”
Stetson said the Eagles will have to be ready to compete in their games this week versus Essex and Champlain Valley.
 “You’ve got to come to play in this league, and hopefully that’s the lesson we learned,” she said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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