MUHS field hockey upsets No. 2 Hornets

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School field hockey team on Monday played arguably its most complete game of the year, and as a result the Tigers stunned Division I’s second-place squad, Essex, 2-1.
After a scoreless first half in which the territory was even, but the 8-2-2 Hornets launched the only five shots on goal, Essex junior standout Jenna Puleo gave her team the lead with a 50-yard run through the Tigers and a strong finish into the lower left corner 1:40 after halftime.
But that strike only seemed to inspire the 3-9 Tigers, who proceeded to put four shots on the Essex cage and allow only one more on their goalie, Bridget Audet (seven saves), the rest of the way.
Defenders Olivia Beauchamp, Raven Payne and Carly Larocque put the clamps on Puleo and company; midfielders Laura Whitley, Kiana Plouffe and Abby LaRock won battles for the ball, began to bottle up the Hornets in their own end, contributed defensively and set up the attackers; and up front Calista Carl and Nina Schroeren finished plays while Grace Widelitz and, in particular, Lily Smith kept the pressure on the Essex defense.
Coach Megan Sears saw probably the Tigers’ best effort of the fall.
“We came out as a team of 11 players on the field for the entire 60 minutes,” Sears said. “They made some fabulous connections when we had the ball, and then made some incredible quick markups on defense.”
She noted the work of the midfield in helping the Tigers take over the game in the final 20 minutes and in creating offense: Whitley assisted Carl’s tying goal, and LaRock fed Schroeren for the game-winner.
“They were terrific today,” Sears said. “They were that link we needed on the field today. They worked really, really hard.”
Smith, a co-captain, was one of three seniors probably playing their last game on Jette field; Carl and Plouffe, the other captain, are the others. MUHS is in ninth place in the D-I standings, six points behind Rutland. The Tigers would need to win their final two games, at first-place South Burlington in a game played on Wednesday and at Mount Abraham on Friday, and hope Rutland loses twice if they hope to host a first-round playoff game.
Smith said weeks of effort allowed the Tigers to finish their home slate in style.
“We had a lot of good communication this time. We used our back passes and stepped to the ball a lot more,” she said. “Our hard work in practice has really paid off in re-defending and pushing the ball up the field and making connections.”
And confidence and chemistry helped, too, Smith said.
“All throughout the day in school, every time we saw a person in the halls or something like that, we would say, ‘We’ve got this. We’re going to win,’” she said.
Still, Essex looked tough for most of the first half, particularly Puleo. Puleo worked through the Tigers several times, and Audet came up big with several point-blank stops. Payne also broke up a play on the goal line with nine minutes to go, and Beauchamp and Whitley defended corners.
The Tigers pressed, too, and each team earned eight first-half corners. But despite good work, especially from Smith and Schroeren, MUHS could not break through to put a shot on first-half goalie Cassidy Reid.
That changed after Puleo scored early in the second half. At 19:41, MUHS found the cage. In a scramble following one of their four second-half corners, Whitley rolled the ball to Carl near the left post, and Carl solidly one-timed the ball home.
The game-winner came after another corner with about 8:30 to go. The Hornets defended the initial attack and cleared the circle on the right side, but LaRock was there to send the ball back into Schroeren on the right side of the circle. Schroeren touched the ball away from a defender and ripped a low, 12-yard shot home past Hornet second-half goalie Kaylan Ferreira (two saves).
MUHS carried the action for most of the rest of the way, earning two more corners. As time expired Audet kicked away a last shot by Hornet forward Lucy Miquel to seal a victory that Sears called “really gratifying.”
“I think we have some great motivation going into South Burlington and then Mount Abe,” she said. “And hopefully that motivation and energy can continue into the playoffs.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

Share this story:

No items found
Share this story: