MUHS field hockey falls short versus Cougars

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School field hockey team was slow coming out of the gate on Saturday against visiting Mount Mansfield, and the aggressive Cougars made the Tigers pay, scoring three times in the first 12:49 and taking a 3-1 victory over the Tigers.
The Cougars improved to 4-3-1 and avenged a 2-1 home loss to MUHS earlier in September.
The 2-5 Tigers lost for the fifth straight time, all in competitive games, including a heartbreaker two days before against undefeated South Burlington, 4-3, after taking a 3-0 lead early in the second half.
Coach Megan Sears said the Tigers, who have some inexperience at midfield and defense, must learn to maintain their focus from start to finish.
“We have been competitive with our opponents thus far this season,” Sears said. “However what we need to keep working on is our mental toughness. We have a couple young players in positions that require that strong mental toughness, not only the mental but the physical toughness needed to last the whole 60 minutes for us, and that ultimately has been our downfall.”
The Cougars laid siege to Tiger sophomore goalie Katie Billings right from the start. Billings, whose 15 saves included a number of tough ones, had to stop Shannon Springer in the fourth minute, but soon afterward MMU earned the second of their 12 penalty corners (to none for the Tigers.)
They converted this one at 25:02, with Sammy Beaulieu feeding Maeve Poleman at the stroke line for a one-timer.
At 23:17, MMU made it 2-0, with Beaulieu poking it home in a scramble and Margaret Thompson earning an assist.
The Tigers finally launched a shot about 10 minutes in, but MMU goalie Jess Peura (six saves) turned aside Lauren Bartlett’s bid from the top of the circle after Makayla Foster’s feed from the right side, and the Cougars cleared the rebound with the Tigers lurking.
The Cougars took control again, and at 17:11, Springer neatly redirected Jess Beaulieu’s feed from outside the circle inside the left post; Billings had no real chance at any of the goals.
The Tigers then began to show signs of life.
“I thought it took a while during the first half for us to get our groove, and by the end we were able to be more competitive,” Sears said.
The Cougars still earned a couple penalty corners, but the ball spent more time in the other end. At 2:53, the Tiger pressure paid off with a goal from leading scorer Mikayla Humiston, the left wing. Peura stopped a long-range shot from left middie Kiana Plouffe, but the Tigers fed it back in and Humiston pounced in the scramble and tucked the ball into the left corner.
Tiger forwards Bartlett, Calista Carl, Foster and Humiston, with support from Lily Smith, who had at that point moved back to midfield from the front line, buzzed the net for the rest of the half, but could not convert.
MMU reasserted itself in the second half, but several strong defensive plays from sweeper Mikayla Robinson and center middie Tajah Marsden and more good work from Billings kept the Cougars off the board.
“In the second half I felt the girls worked hard to cover lots of MMU bodies in our defensive circle, which was a challenge for us in the first half,” Sears said.
But offensive chances remained few for the Tigers. In part, Sears said, “getting on the board” lifts the team’s spirits, and the Tigers became frustrated. But they also were not moving the ball and moving without the ball as well as they can, she said.
“When passing and supportive play clicks for us, we are successful,” she said. “We just needed more of that today.”
A couple of goals against visiting Mount Abraham on Wednesday will help the team get back on track, Sears said, as will their continued effort in practice.
“We are continuing to look to get the ball in the back of the net. When we make that happen our morale is much higher,” she said. “The girls work so hard day after day in practice, and in games, that I hope we can have positive results like we did in the beginning of our season.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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