Mount Abe Field Hockey outlasts Tigers, 3-1

MIDDLEBURY — Trends continued in Tuesday’s high school field hockey game between Mount Abraham and host Middlebury.
The 4-3-1 Eagles continued to play well in their 3-1 win, improving to 4-1-1 in their past six games. Their only loss in that stretch has been by 2-1 to undefeated Division I South Burlington.
And a young Tiger team continued to show progress and look dangerous on offense, but fell to 1-7 despite playing Mount Abe to a statistical standoff: The Eagles led in shots at goal, 14-12, but the Tigers earned more penalty corners, 10-9.
The coaches, Mount Abe’s Mary Stetson and the Tigers’ Megan Sears, both said the fast-paced game came down to finishing.
“I knew it was going to be end line to end line, just the way Megan always has her team prepared,” Stetson said. “And I think our kids took great advantage of our opportunities.”
Sears saw some positives, but not enough for a win in a game that followed a well played overtime loss to Mount Mansfield three days before. 
“We just didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Sears said. “We had a great game on Saturday working together, obviously not a positive result, and then today we weren’t working so well together. Parts of the field were working together, but all 11 players could have worked a little better together.”
The key goal might have come with 7:37 to go and the Eagles leading, 2-1. With about 10 minutes to go, the Tigers were pressing and earned two corners. After the Eagles survived them, Stetson called for time and demanded her team be more aggressive on the attack.
The Tigers had one more attack immediately afterward, but soon the ball started going the other way and the Eagles earned a corner.
From the right of the goal, senior forward Hannah Wahl sent a strong insert to senior forward Jackie Reiss at the top of the circle. Reiss slipped the ball back to the right to sophomore midfielder Casondra Dykstra, who pushed the ball back into the middle to senior center middie Ashley Turner cutting in. Turner one-timed the ball cleanly into the near side to complete the play and dash the Tigers’ comeback hopes.
Turner said the timeout was pivotal.
“We took it as an opportunity to turn things around and really get fired up. And I think we capitalized on that well, taking it down, getting that corner and then getting that goal,” she said. “We were definitely losing the momentum, but that timeout helped us gain it back and get the win.”
Stetson said the Eagles, who at times a year ago struggled to score even though they reached the final, are determined to be more aggressive this season. 
“That was a great play by Casondra, and Ashley walked right into that space and fired,” she said. “We’re not just trying to score one goal and hang on this year.”
The first half was even in territory, but the Eagles took a 2-0 lead. After Eagle sophomore goalie Chessley Jackman denied an early bid by Tiger freshman Lexi Bartlett, Reiss put the Eagles on top at 25:50, moving into the right side of the circle and finding the far corner. Sophomore forward Jalen Cook assisted.
The Eagles pressed for a while, and Tiger junior center middie Laura Whitley broke up a corner and junior goalie Bridget Audet (seven saves) made two stops on Reiss. On another corner, Tiger junior back Raven Payne made a defensive save.
The Tigers began to threaten, as senior wing Lily Smith and Calista Carl, Bartlett, and sophomore Nina Schroeren all created chances. Jackman stopped Smith on a break-in and denied Carl on a corner.
But the Eagles struck next: Cook made it 2-0 at 5:11, finishing off a long run down the right side with a shot into the near corner.
Late in the first half Schroeren and sophomore middie Abby LaRock made bids, and early in the second half Eagle junior back Robyn Arena (she and junior center back Emily Aldrich played well for the Eagles) broke up a Smith run.
At 16:44, the Tigers broke through: Schroeren squared up the loose ball near the stroke line and found the lower left corner.
Soon afterward, Dykstra sent Eagle sophomore Evan Laurent in alone on Audet, who appeared to deflect Laurent’s shot, but not off goal — but Payne made another defensive save near the left post.
Then came the timeout and Turner’s key pad goal. The Tigers kept pushing, and Jackman denied Bartlett and Smith, and sophomore central defender Olivia Young made two defensive plays as the Eagles preserved their lead.
   TIGER SOPHOMORE NINA Schroeren cuts between Eagle defenders Robyn Arena, left, and Ashley Turner Tuesday afternoon. Schroeren scored the lone Tiger goal in the Eagles’ 3-1 win.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
For MUHS, defenders Olivia Beauchamp and Carly Larocque also had good moments, as did senior midfielder Kiana Plouffe.
Sears credited the Eagles for strong defense, and said she hopes for more consistency from her team down the stretch.
“Last week we had three games and we were really able to see improvement in our 60-minute play,” she said. “Today, we took some time to warm up and saw some peaks and valleys in our play, but overall it is better. But we just need to keep encouraging that full 60-minute momentum. We’re still young.”
Stetson said the Eagles have seen improvement in communication, ball movement, finishing and teamwork, while Jackman has played well in her first year in goal behind a defense that has gelled.
“Our defense is playing very solidly right now,” she said.
Turner added the Eagles have the intangibles they need to succeed, maybe especially those veterans who remember the 2015 final and want another shot on Nov. 5 this year. 
“We’re all really dedicated to trying to do our best and trying to be a positive force on the team,” Turner said. “And I think we all want to get to that Nov. 5 Saturday. We want to be there winning it.”

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