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Otter field hockey pulls out another victory; limited team numbers not a factor

BRANDON — So far this season for the Otter Valley Union High School field hockey team, eleven equals eight.
With rare exceptions when she puts a JV player in for a couple minutes at a time, Coach Stacey Edmunds-Brickell has asked her 11 starters to play 60 minutes of every game — that’s her entire roster.
And on a rainy Saturday, the Division II Otters improved to 8-2 and celebrated the school’s homecoming by knocking off D-I Mount Anthony, 2-1. And the Otters were the team that came on strong at the end, scoring twice in the final 19:41 to erase a Patriot lead.
Senior forward Kylee Bissette, who scored the game-winner on a clever feed from classmate Jenna Elliot, said the Otters might have wanted the win more than the Patriots and treated the MAU goal like a wake-up call.
“We just got mad and got even, I guess,” Bissette said. “We just got pumped up.”
Still, it’s one thing to be determined, and it’s another to have the stamina to answer an alarm 40 minutes into a game. Bissette explained a secret to the Otters’ success this season.
“Running. We run a lot in practice. We’re in good shape,” she said.
Edmunds-Brickell agreed the Otters’ dedication to fitness is a major factor.
“They’ve committed themselves to conditioning more this year, because they knew with only 11 they would be out on the field all the time,” she said. “They run before I even get here for practice.”
Bissette added another reason.
“Just teamwork. We’re all really close. We’re like a big family,” she said. “It just comes together on the field.”
Edmunds-Brickell sounded the same theme.
“They’re willing to support to each other. They’re good to each other,” she said. “With 11 girls it feels like a bunch of sisters out on the field.”
Another plus is versatility. For example, junior Amy Jones usually joins with classmate Maia Edmunds and senior Laura Beth Roberts to help OV control midfield, and for most of Saturday’s game she played well both offensively and especially defensively (she is the flyer on OV defensive penalty corner team) on the right side.
But OV was struggling to pressure the MAU backline, where central defender Leah Olansky was playing well. Edmunds-Brickell decided after OV fell behind that she needed Jones’ quickness up front, and suddenly OV looked dangerous.
“I can move any one of them to any position on the field, and not only will they go willingly, they do a great job there,” Edmunds-Brickell said. “That’s one of, I guess, the requirements of having 11 girls on the team, but they do it so well.”
Saturday’s first half was primarily a midfield duel, with OV’s trio battling an MAU group led by junior Kori Bow. The OV defense of senior Marissa Colburn in the middle and sophomores Meghan Hallett and Sophia Bloomer on the flanks did not allow a shot on sophomore goalie Myliah McDonough in the half. The best chance for either team came when Elliot shot wide on a feed from sophomore forward Courtney Bushey.
But the Patriots came out stronger in the second half, and they connected on a beautiful goal at 22:53. Alex Cross served hard from the right end line across the goal, and Dana Crowley one-timed the ball into the far corner.
OV then started attacking. Jones sent the ball into Bissette and sophomore Allison Lowell at the right post, but they could not corral it in a crowd. At 19:41, Lowell, OV’s top scorer, evened the score. Jones tapped the ball into the top of the circle, directly out from the right post, and Lowell drilled it into the left corner.
After Colburn broke up a counterattack, OV struck again at 15:40. Lowell sent the ball from outside the circle, out from the left post, toward Elliott near the right post. Elliott tipped the ball across the goalmouth to the onrushing Bissette, who rapped it inside the left post; MAU goalie Kristen Andrews (one save) had no chance.
Soon afterward, McDonough (three saves) made a stop on one of MAU’s three penalty corners, and the OV defense locked down the win from there.
Edmunds-Brickell was happy to see OV rally.
“We were a little slow to start. It’s always a little hard to know what that is. Is it the weather? Is it a weekend game? Is it the time of day you’re playing?” she said. “But they fired up.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindep

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