CVU field hockey team surges past young Tigers in second half
MIDDLEBURY — A veteran Champlain Valley field hockey team featuring eight seniors on its roster pulled away in Tuesday’s second half to claim a 4-2 win over host Middlebury, a younger squad with only three seniors.
Two of those Redhawk seniors combined for three second-half goals that snapped a 1-1 halftime tie, two coming 38 seconds apart from Taya LeProvost midway through the period to ice the win, the third straight for the 3-1-1 Redhawks.
The Tigers, coming off their first win, an encouraging 4-2 outing at home vs. Burlington on Saturday, dropped to 1-4. Their offense continued to look dangerous, and sophomore goalie Bridget Audet — who strapped on the pads for the first time ever during preseason — had an outstanding 18-save effort.
Coach Megan Sears praised both Audet and an offense that has overall been led by senior Lily Smith and freshman Lexi Bartlett and on Tuesday got a goal and an assist from sophomore Nina Schroeren and a goal from senior Calista Carl.
“To have 18 saves on the book is remarkable for a goalie who has been playing for almost exactly a month. Our goalie has been playing very, very well,” Sears said. “Our offense in the last two games has really clicked with each other in terms of the connections they make, the space that they give each other.”
But Sears said the Tigers have struggled to work the ball up the field into the attack, in part because inexperienced players are still learning proper positioning.
“One thing we definitely need to work on, though, is the space between the forwards and middies and middies and defense,” she said.
On Tuesday, the Redhawk midfielders and forwards often beat the Tigers to loose balls and won 50-50 battles, something Sears said has been a trend so far this fall, but one that she said the Tigers can reverse.
“Because we are young, I think some of the players play a little more reserved,” she said. “But we just need to continue to work on being first to the ball, and I think we could do that very easily.”
On Tuesday, the Redhawks dominated the early going, earning six penalty corners in the first 13 minutes and forcing Audet to make a number of point-blank stops. Tiger junior sweeper Olivia Beauchamp, junior center middie Laura Whitley and sophomore left back Carly Larocque also all made strong defensive plays to break up corners.
After Audet stopped a LeProvost breakaway, Sears called for time at 16:52, and play evened out. Carl and Schroeren set up a bid by Bartlett, forcing Redhawk goalie Kristy Carlson (six saves) to come out of her cage and make a stop. Carlson had to come out again to deny Bartlett soon afterward, this time on a feed from sophomore Grace Widelitz, and also denied Whitley on a corner.
Finally, Whitley broke up a Redhawk thrust over midfield and sent Schroeren into open space in the CVU end. She got past two defenders and, before a third Redhawk in the circle could stop her, chipped a shot high on goal. Carlson reached up with her blocker to bat the ball away, but Schroeren swept home the rebound with a reverse stick move with seven minutes left in the half.
CVU fought back, and standout center middie Bella Rieley broke past a defender at the top of the circle and found space to line up a shot and rap it into the lower left corner at 3:58 to make it 1-1. CVU finished the first half with modest edges in shots on goal (8-6) and penalty corners (10-7).
The Redhawks came out firing after the break. After Audet made early saves on LeProvost and Flynn Hall on a penalty corner, the Redhawks earned another corner six minutes in. Rieley fired on Audet, who stopped the shot, but CVU senior forward Nicole Anderson tucked home the rebound at 23:36.
Smith managed a shot on Carlson soon afterward, but after two more Audet saves and three more CVU corners, Sears called for time at 14:07. This time the ploy did not work. At 12:21, LeProvost cut in from the right side and made it 3-1, and 38 seconds later her shot from the right side made it 4-1.
The Tigers scored at 2:45 on a corner. Schroeren served from the top of the circle toward the right post, where a waiting Carl tipped it home.
The Redhawks’ big second half tilted the final stats: The shots at goals (27-9) and corners (17-9) both favored CVU.
There was another lesson for the Tigers, Sears said.
“We’re a young team, and right now playing all 60 minutes with all our effort is a challenge,” she said. “We need to continue to work to be a full-60-minute team.”
Sears remains confident the Tigers will work out the kinks, noting they have had a light schedule and already have made progress in all the areas she has identified as needing improvement.
“Finishing out the week with two games, it will be good to see where we are at the end of Saturday and heading into the second half of the season,” she said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].