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Otter girls’ soccer blanks Twin Valley

BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School girls’ soccer team rode a fast start to a 3-0 win over visiting Twin Valley under rented lights on Saturday night.
The Otters’ third shutout win in four games moved them to 5-8-1 entering the Division III playoffs. OV looks like the No. 15 seed, meaning a visit to No. 2 Thetford in the first round. The Vermont Principals’ Association was set to release playoff pairings on Monday morning.
Coach Rick Hedding said he is pleased with his team’s progress this fall. A defense keyed by Leah Pinkowski and Mallory Lufkin in the middle and keepers Gabby Poalino and Sophia Walker allowed only four goals in OV’s final seven games, two of them vs. undefeated Green Mountain Union this past Wednesday, when Poalino made 14 saves.
Meanwhile, Hedding said, the Otters ball movement has also improved.
“They’ve really come a long way,” he said. “They pass the ball well. They’re moving the ball diagonally instead of straight up the field all the time.”
That ball movement paid off on Saturday with three goals in the first 19 minutes, two from sophomore Julia Eastman and one from Poalino. In the 10th minute Eastman sent the ball from the left to Poalino at the penalty stripe, and she drilled it into the right side of the net. Three minutes later Poalino’s clever through ball sent Eastman into the box, and she picked the lower left corner.
Eastman, who in the more physical second half left with an injury, capped the scoring with a 25-yard blast at 21:20.
In the 23rd minute Walker made a point-blank stop on Kylie Reed to snuff the visitors’ only chance of the half. Walker made three more stops in the second half and also came off her line to beat Sadie Boyd and Morgen Janovsky. With 15 minutes to go and fouls disrupting play, Hedding put Poalino (two saves) in goal to protect the lead. She ranged to break up a couple plays and dove to stop a ball deflected off a defender.
In the first half OV outshot their foes, 10-5, but in the second, Twin Valley (4-9-1) held a 10-7 edge; two TV goalies combined for eight saves. Hedding said OV remained poised as play got ragged.
“It got very physical. But I thought our girls responded very well. They kept their cool and still tried to do the right thing,” he said.
Poalino and two other seniors will graduate, forward Colby Reynolds and middie Sarah Hobbs. Hedding said they have provided leadership that will keep the Otters moving forward.
“They’re really bonding as a team and heading in the right direction,” Hedding said. “Our senior leadership has been great and our captains have been great. I see no reason why this won’t continue. That’s a huge part of it. If you have good team dynamics and chemistry you’ll always improve.”

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