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Eagle field hockey prevails over Otters, 1-0

BRANDON — Neither rain nor wind nor mud nor the No. 3 seed Otter Valley Union High School field hockey team could slow visiting No. 6 Mount Abraham on Thursday, when the Eagles scored early and used dominating defense all over the field to defeat the Otters, 1-0, in a Division II quarterfinal.
Mount Abe improved to 5-6-4 — and 5-0-1 against D-II competition — after surviving another fall in the almost exclusively D-I Metro Conference.
The Eagles will play No. 2 Spaulding (13-1) in a 3 p.m. Monday semifinal at Middlebury College. The Eagles and Spaulding, which played a mostly D-III schedule, both played Harwood and U-32. The Eagles beat Harwood, 6-0, and U-32 twice, 3-0 and 2-0. The Tide defeated U-32, 6-0, and Harwood twice, 7-1 and 4-1. The final will be played at the University of Vermont on Saturday at a time to be announced. 
Eagle senior central defender Emily Aldrich — whose aggressive work disrupting OV at midfield helped key Mount Abe — said the Eagles had faith they would do well on Friday after cutting their teeth in Metro play, and would carry the same attitude forward on Monday.
“I think everybody was really confident. We decided we would just forget about our record and scores and everything and just come in with a clean slate,” Aldrich said. “I’m pretty confident about Monday, but we’re going to do the same thing, we’re just going to go in and play our hockey.”
All the Eagle midfielders helped bottle up the Otters, who were held without a shot on Eagle goalie Chessley Jackman as backs Julia Norris, Carley Sherwin and Robyn Arena defended well when OV did attack.
And Eagle Coach Mary Stetson said Aldrich excelled at a specific assignment — preventing the OV backs from linking directly with high scoring forwards Alia Edmunds and Chelsea Reed.
“We figured out in the middle they were always looking to those two high players, and so we had her step to that,” Stetson said. “She played a phenomenal game.”
An inexperienced OV team ended at 9-3-2 despite heavy graduation losses. Coach Stacey Edmunds-Brickell said she is proud of her team, and that the future is bright, with only Reed and fellow senior forward and tri-captain Katie Coolidge set to graduate.
“We lost eight starters and came back with two subs this year and finished with a great season,” Edmunds-Brickell said. “And we only lose two girls this year. And while I hate to lose them it’s nice to know we have a core group coming back.”
Thursday belonged to the Eagles from the start. They quickly stormed the OV end, earning six of their nine penalty corners in the first six minutes.
OV sophomore goalie Ellie Ross made the best of her 11 saves early. She dove to stop senior Chloe Lyons’ one-timer at the left post, and flashed her left foot to deflect wide a Lyons’ drive that was ticketed for the right corner.
But Ross had no chance when the Eagles scored at 23:31. The play began with Jalen Cook breaking up yet another unsuccessful OV clearing attempt and being fouled. Eagle senior middie Olivia Young took a quick restart and relayed to Cook cutting straight down the middle, and Cook’s hard one-timer found the right side.
Mount Abe kept pressing and had a goal waived off before the Otters began to find their footing and territory became a little more even. But OV could not turn its chances into shots. Coolidge drove a long ball into the circle just out of Reed’s and Morgan LaPorte’s reach 10 minutes in, and 19 minutes in no Otter could get to an Edmunds serve.
OV’s only two corners came back-to-back with five minutes left in the half and failed to produce a shot. Shortly after that Sherwin broke up an Edmunds counterattack.
The Eagles came on strong early in the second half, and Ross denied Evan Laurent and Cook. OV had a chance on a feed from junior tri-captain and middie Sophie Markowski toward LaPorte charging the right post, but it rolled just out of her reach.
Most of the action remained in the OV end, with Ross frustrating Lyons again and Cook and Laurent missing wide at the 15-minute mark. OV defenders Gabriella LaGrange, Jadynn Pope, Jordan Laraway and Livia Bernhardt did well to help hold Mount Abe in check.  
   OTTER VALLEY UNION High School goaltender Elinor Ross turns away a Mount Abraham shot during Thursday’s playoff game. The Eagles won the game, 1-0.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
As the conditions worsened, the game was mostly contested at midfield as time wound down. Mount Abe middie Casondra Dykstra just missed on a penalty corner, the only real chance either team developed. Jackman kicked the ball out of her circle once, but was untested.
Edmunds-Brickell would have liked to see a game played in better conditions, but tipped her hat to the Eagles.
“Credit to them. They’re a good team. But I think it might have gone a little better for us if we had some dry footing,” Edmunds-Brickell said. “Who knows?”
Aldrich said the Eagles’ fast start on Thursday was also critical.
“That was really important because in the beginning of the season we were doing that, and then we kind of lost that,” she said. “It’s good that we found ourselves and we were able to get back to that.”
Stetson praised her team’s ability to bottle up the Otters in their own end for long stretches.
“The defense was stuffing play early and not letting it develop in the circle,” she said.
Now another tough challenge lies ahead.
“We play on turf and we play against Spaulding, who has been chewing up the competition,” Stetson said. “So we’ll see. We’re excited about moving to the semis. So we’re excited today, and we’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
   OTTER SENIOR KATHRYN Coolidge, trailed by Eagle senior defender Robyn Arena, races toward the Eagle goal during Thursday’s game in Brandon.
 
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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