Tiger girls’ lax prevails over S. Burlington in battle of the unbeaten

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School girls’ lacrosse team faced an important mid-term exam on Thursday and aced it.
South Burlington and MUHS both stepped onto Fucile Field with 8-0 records, but the Tigers were the team that moved to 9-0 by defeating the Rebels, 12-7.
The game was close in the first half, which the Tigers closed with a 5-2 run to take a 7-5 lead.
Then MUHS dominated early in the second half, winning four straight draws, controlling most ground balls, and scoring four straight goals to take an 11-5 lead.
The draws had been 6-6 in the first half, but Tiger junior midfielders Satchel McLaughlin, Isabel Rosenberg and Andi Boe earned a 6-2 second-half edge in that department and helped MUHS earn an overall 32-26 ground ball advantage.
“We knew that possession was a super important part of the game,” said McLaughlin, who led the team with eight ground balls and tied freshman attacker Kate Donahue with three goals. “We were really motivated as a team to work together and get possession.”
The Tiger defense of junior goalie Raven Payne (eight saves), senior Riley Fenster, juniors Keagan Dunbar and Abby Gleason, and sophomore Lacey Greenamyre also limited the Rebels to two goals after the break.
Payne (“I loved Raven today,” said Coach Kelley Higgins) made key stops, especially in the first half, and the defenders caused turnovers and forced low-percentage shots, especially as the game wore on.
Higgins said at times in the first half the defenders were not watching both the ball and their marks, but they fixed the issue.
“We made some adjustments at the half that worked,” Higgins said. “They’re intuitive and self-correct all the time, and it’s fun to watch them do that.”
After two early McLaughlin goals, one set up by the first of two Boe assists, gave MUHS the lead, Rebels Dakota Crane, Annika Nielson and Willow Jager found then net, the last coming at 9:56.
Donahue answered at 9:12, from Boe, and Payne made a big save on Ava Hultgren. Two goals in 28 seconds, from Donahue and McLaughlin, made it 5-3 and gave MUHS the lead for good at 6:01. The teams then traded goals before the half, with Kimmy Norris and Hultgren scoring for SB and sophomore Emily Laframboise — on a strong 50-yard run — and Rosenberg — on a curl from behind the net — tallying for the Tigers.
After the break, the Tigers took charge. After draw wins, Boe and Rosenberg each picked a corner, and it was 9-5 with 2:37 gone. After Payne denied Crane, freshman Lexi Bartlett bounced home a free position shot to make it 10-5.
McLaughlin said the Tigers came together in the stretch.
“Each of us knew what we had to get done, and I think we really encouraged each other,” she said.
Payne stopped Crane again, while SB goalie Claire Holloway (three saves) stoned Donahue twice to keep it close for a while. But at 10:54, Donahue raced right-to-left across the goalmouth and finished high to make it 11-5. Down the stretch Nielson and Hultgren scored again, and Boe tacked on a transition goal.
The game was hard-fought, as the officials allowed the players to battle for position.
“It was definitely a physical game. I think a lot of emotions were built up,” McLaughlin said. “Our adrenaline really started to go there. They’re one of our rivals, and we really wanted to win today.”
Even more than good ball movement, Higgins appreciated the heart her team showed.
“They dug a little deeper today,” she said. “The seasoned players had a little bit of confidence going into this, I think, which helped.”
Thursday’s result should boost the Tigers’ faith in themselves even more, McLaughlin said.
“I think it’s a big deal,” she said. “It’s awesome to keep our confidence up and just know as a team that if we work together we will be successful.”
Andy Kirkaldy is reached at [email protected].

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