Eagles’ roll continues with hard-fought win over Tigers

BRISTOL — The fast start for the Mount Abraham Union High School field hockey team continued on Saturday, when the Eagles earned a 3-0 victory over visiting Middlebury.
The Eagles improved to 3-0 and have outscored their opposition by 12-0 so far this fall.
But Saturday’s result did not come easily. The Tigers bounced back well from an 8-2 opening loss at Champlain Valley two days before: They controlled stretches of play and earned 15 penalty corners to the Eagles’ 11.
Mount Abe Coach Mary Stetson praised both the Tigers and her own defenders — senior Emily Aldrich and Julia Norris in the middle, senior Carley Sherwin on the right, a committee of seniors Martha Bruhl and Robyn Arena and junior Sawyer Forbes on the left, and junior Chessley Jackman (seven saves) in goal.
“Middlebury had a lot of determination to get to goal … and the defense answered the call,” Stetson said. “They (the Tigers) played very hard. They’re a good team.”
At the other end, Eagle senior middie Abby Perlee scored 1:32 into the game, junior forward Jalen Cook one-timed in a feed from Evan Laurent 1:20 into the second half, and junior middie Casondra Dykstra sealed the win with 5:30 to go.
Stetson’s main preseason concern was whether the Eagles would develop a nose for the goal — so far, so good.
“That’s a nice surprise, isn’t it? I think we were opportunistic. I think Middlebury had the better portion of a lot of the circle play in there, but we made the most of our chances,” Stetson said. “And I think a lot of that comes with confidence we got in the first couple games.”
First-year Tiger Coach Chelsea Giuliani found plenty to like, starting with better offensive pressure.
“I saw a huge amount of improvement from our first game,” Giuliani said. “I feel particularly good about how we’re transitioning the ball and the opportunities we’re giving our attack.”
There were times when the defense of senior Raven Payne in the middle, senior Olivia Beauchamp on the left and junior Abigail LaRock on the right allowed the Eagles a bit too much room, but overall the group defended well and moved the ball crisply.
“Our communication was really on point for the majority of the game,” Giuliani said. “We worked hard in the last 48 hours in really establishing a strong line of communication in the backfield. So I feel really pleased with how that played out today.”
The Eagles struck quickly before the Tigers settled in. Cook rushed the ball into the circle, and Aldrich stepped up to keep it there. It popped loose to Perlee off the right post, and she found the far side to make it 1-0.
Tiger senior middie Laura Whitley quickly countered, forcing Jackman to kick the ball out of harm’s way. About 10 minutes in, the Tigers surged. Senior right wing Blair Stone forced a corner, and it turned into a sequence of four straight. But the best bid came on the first, when an Eagle defender blocked a Whitley shot.
The action went end to end. Midway through the half, Tiger senior goalie Bridget Audet (five saves) denied Dykstra on a corner. Soon afterward Norris disrupted a Tiger corner. Senior Eagle central middie Olivia Young helped the forwards press the Tigers, and Jackman stopped Stone after Whitley forced an MUHS corner.
In the half’s last minute Payne broke up a play initiated by Eagle senior middie Abigail Nezin. Payne carried the ball three-quarters of the field before driving it into the circle, forcing Jackman to kick the ball away from the Tigers at the horn.
The Eagles came out strong to open the second half. After an early corner, they repossessed and sent Laurent down the right side. From the end line she served waist-high to Cook, who rapped the ball out of mid-air back inside the right post to make it 2-0.
Mount Abe kept pressing, and Payne denied Cook. On a corner eight minutes in, junior forward Elizabeth Nault’s tip of a Perlee drive nailed the left post.
The Tigers countered as junior center middie Carly Larocque, Whitley and Stone asserted themselves. The Tigers best chances came when Jackman came out to break up Whitley and later kicked away a bid by junior middie Grace Widelitz.
Finally Dykstra struck. She Dykstra picked up a restart sent toward the left post, moved around a defender and flicked a short shot inside the far post.
The Tigers kept coming: Jackman had to stop Whitley again, and Aldrich made a defensive save on sophomore forward Maeve Hammel on a late corner.
Giuliani said she appreciated the full 60 minutes of effort.
“There is not one player on that field who didn’t give everything she had today. There were execution errors or whatever, but it wasn’t because they didn’t want it,” Giuliani said. “That’s a win for sure.”
Stetson said she would like to see the Eagles do better transitioning the ball up the field and moving as a unit, but is certainly happy about their start.
“I think we’re right where we need to be right now,” Stetson said. “We’ve done a lot of nice things, and now we’re starting to gel as a group.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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