Eagles, Tigers field hockey battle to tie
BRISTOL — In the end, 70 minutes of high school field hockey in Bristol on Friday settled nothing, except that maybe both host Mount Abraham and Middlebury wanted to win and might be ready for this week’s playoffs.
The result was a 0-0 tie that left the Division II Eagles at 4-6-4, including a 2-1-4 record in the past seven games. They will earn the No. 4 seed in D-II and host a quarterfinal, unofficially as of Sunday against Spaulding (7-5-2). The Vermont Principals Association was set to make playoff pairings final on Monday morning.
Friday was the Eagles’ fourth straight tie, following deadlocks against the top three seeds in D-I.
Coach Mary Stetson would like to see some more offensive production, but believes her Eagles could make a run in D-II behind a defense anchored by senior goalie Danielle Morse; center backs Ellie Gevry, a senior, and Emily Aldrich, a sophomore; and the two-way play of senior center middie Danielle Bachand.
“I’m very confident that we will give anybody a good match. We’re very tough. We bend, but we don’t break,” Stetson said. “Defensively we seem to keep our marks well, force them into mistakes and hurry their play. And we’re working on finishing our play. We just have to learn to do that for the last part of the season.”
The Tigers finished the regular season at 4-9-1, including a hard-fought 4-2 loss to No. 1 South Burlington two days before. Coach Megan Sears said she believes her team is showing the focus it will need for the D-I postseason.
“We came off a really intense game vs. South Burlington on Wednesday, and then to have this intensity today I think is really great to propel us into next week,” Sears said.
The Tigers should receive the No. 8 seed and host No. 9 Mount Anthony, also 4-9-1, in a first-round matchup.
On this past Friday, the Tigers maintained early pressure behind their midfield of Tajah Marsden, Lily Smith and Laura Whitley, with wings Makayla Foster and Mikayla Humiston making runs.
But the Tiger territory in the first half did not translate into too many chances, as Aldrich, Gevry and flank defenders Macey Ross and Katherine Moody worked hard to deny shots. The Tigers best bids came when Humiston fired wide on a feed from Lauren Bartlett midway through the half, and when Bartlett missed just wide after Mikayla Robinson (who played both defense and midfield) drove the ball into the circle.
Robinson and Rowan Hendy broke up Eagle chances, the best of which were created by middies Ashley Turner, Margaret Moody and Bachand and forwards Celia Heath and Hannah Wahl. Neither goalie was tested in the first half, Morse for Mount Abe, or Sophia Chicoine, who played the first 30 minutes for MUHS before giving way to Katie Billings.
The Eagles carried play for a large stretch of the second half, and with 17 minutes to go Billings made back-to-back stops on Eagle forward Jackie Reiss and Bachand as the action heated up. Marsden then went coast-to-coast and fed Bartlett on the left, who crossed to Smith, who saw Morse come out to deny her point-blank bid.
Then the Tigers controlled, earning four corners (each team was awarded seven). But the Eagles held, with Aldrich breaking up one play and Morse denying Smith and then Humiston and Foster.
As time wound down, Morse stoned Smith on a solo charge, and Ross carried the ball out of a scramble that followed.
In overtime, Billings made a big save on Reiss early, and Robinson broke up a Bachand threat. Then Morse came out to deny Smith on a feed from Marsden.
On an Eagle penalty corner, Bachand drilled a shot home, but the official immediately waved it off because the ball had not left the circle before she shot, as is required on corners.
Afterward, Sears praised both squads.
“I think it was two really competitive teams that took the field today, and we played at a playoff caliber, which was really fun to see during the last game of the season,” Sears said.
Stetson echoed her thoughts.
“Middlebury played a great game. We had some good stuff. They interrupted stuff for us, and then we figured some stuff out,” Stetson said. “I think it was a very evenly matched game.”