Eagle field hockey loses heartbreaker

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School field hockey team flashed potential in its opener vs. visiting Division I Mount Mansfield on Friday, especially in the first half, but the Cougars fought back and prevailed in overtime, 2-1.
In that first half, the Eagles outshot the Cougars, 6-2, and took a 1-0 lead, and that shot total did not count two Mount Abe goals the officials waved off, one for a foot foul and one for being struck outside the scoring circle.
Ultimately, each team finished with seven shots, with the Eagles earning a slight edge in play reflected in their 8-5 margin in penalty corners.
Overall, longtime Coach Mary Stetson said she saw much to like from a team that made the D-II final a year ago, but has a number of new faces after graduation losses.
“We had some good connections at certain points of the game, some good sparks,” she said. “It’s really encouraging.”
Stetson would have liked to see the Eagles consistently maintain the level of play from the first half, but to be fair Mount Mansfield returns eight seniors from a trip to the D-I semifinals a year ago.
“Good teams have to be strong and weather the ebbs and flows of the game,” Stetson said. “There were certain points where we really controlled a lot of the game, and then didn’t play with as much urgency, and then all of a sudden we got a good spark.”
Stetson also praised the team’s depth, with no drop-off when she turned to her bench.
“We’re rotating everyone at midfield right now, and up front,” she said.
   EAGLE SOPHOMORE JALEN Cook charges the Mount Mansfield goal during Friday’s game in Bristol.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
In the first few minutes the Cougars tested the Eagle backline of juniors Emily Aldrich and Olivia Young in the middle (Young plays further forward, with more offensive responsibilities) and junior Robyn Arena and senior Kat Moody on the flanks — at one point Cougar standout Perry Willett fired just wide left.
But then the Eagles took over. An end-to-end rush with several crisp passes ended up with Cougar goalie Jess Peura blocking a strong, high shot from Eagle senior center middie Ashley Turner at the 19-minute mark.
The Eagles scored less than a minute later on their first corner. The ball went from the top to sophomore wing Jalen Cook to the right of the goal. She centered, and sophomore forward Evan Laurent one-timed it home at 18:07.
Eagle sophomore goalie Chessley Jackman, making her first varsity start, asserted herself a minute later, denying the Lakers’ only first-half shot, Francesca Frost’s low drive from the right side.
In controlling the first half, the Eagles got good work from Turner, senior midfielder Margaret Moody, senior forwards Celia Heath and Hannah Wahl, Young and Cook.
With nine minutes to go, Turner and Cook worked a give-and-go down the right side, and Cook rapped the ball home. The official was in good position to rule the ball hit Cook’s foot before the shot, however. A minute later, Peura denied Turner from close range on a penalty corner. With two minutes left, Cougar defender Lauren Hagerty broke up another corner.
In the half’s final minute, the Eagles earned one more corner. A long Turner shot bounced home through a crowd, but the officials ruled both that it came from outside the circle and did not touch anybody on the way in, and thus did not count.
“Whether or not those were goals, that’s life. You’ve got to be able to rally and score more,” Stetson said.
The Eagles did not manage a shot on goal in the second half, even with four more corners awarded. And the Cougars pressed early on. Jackman (four saves) stopped Frost again on a corner, and Young and Aldrich made defensive plays to preserve the lead.
But the Cougars broke through at 19:15. After a restart on the right side, Allie Bianchi crossed, and Hannah Ducharme tipped it high into the Eagle cage from point-blank range.
Stetson called for time, and the Eagles had the best chances in regulation. Frost broke up a promising corner, and with 12 minutes left Eagle senior forward Jackie Reiss shot wide.
The Eagles also had the first great chance in the seven-on-seven overtime. Cook beat a defender down the right side and went in two-one-one with Heath. Cook served across the goal mouth, and Peura (four saves) came out to smother Heath’s bid.
The Cougars converted their chance. The speedy Willett carried in from midfield, beating two Eagles to create an advantage in the circle. Jackman stopped the first bid, but had no help as Natalie Mohn swept home the loose ball at 3:59.
Stetson expects the Eagles to bounce back when they host Essex on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“It’s tough to play hard and not come out on top,” she said. “And now it’s how you react to that.”

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