Eagle girls’ soccer hangs tough, defeats Harwood in double overtime

BRISTOL — Make it eight wins in a row for the Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ soccer team, but Saturday’s was harder and meant more than any of the previous seven.
The 12-4 Eagles, seeded No. 4 in the Division II playoffs, needed senior midfielder Casey Ober’s goal with 2:29 left in the second overtime to subdue No. 5 Harwood, 3-2.
To get to overtime against the 12-4 Highlanders the Eagles required senior striker Lydia Pitts to score with 9:29 to go in regulation, when Pitts converted a give-and-go feed from fellow senior forward Abby Mansfield — who also set up Ober’s game-winner and put home Mount Abe’s opening goal.
But it was the hard-working Ober’s strike from near the penalty stripe that triggered the celebration and sent the Eagles onto a Wednesday semifinal at No. 1 Rice (14-2, including a split of two games with Mount Abe).
“I just knew I needed to take it with control and finish and put it into the back of the net,” Ober said of the game’s final play. “That’s all we needed.”
That play capped two overtimes that the Eagles dominated, although there were anxious moments late in the first overtime: Harwood’s Camille King struck a wind-aided direct kick off the crossbar, and Ashley Proteau headed the rebound wide left.
Ober said the Eagles had faith and found an extra gear in the overtimes.
“We all came into this game believing we were going to win this game, and I think we just kicked in at the end, played as a team,” she said.
Coach Dustin Corrigan agreed that the Eagles’ chemistry helped them survive the talented, physical Highlanders.
“Even when we weren’t playing our best the effort was tremendous. They stuck together. And that’s what we’re all about,” Corrigan.
Other than one early breakdown that led to Harwood’s first goal, the only danger the Eagle defense allowed on goalie Olivia Paine came from direct kicks. Seniors Jenna McArdle and Emma LaRose were steady and reliable in the middle, and senior Molly Funk came off the bench for an outstanding game, including racing across from the right to break up Harwood striker Kaia Cormier at the penalty stripe midway through the first half.
“Our backfield really stepped up and stopped some dangerous attackers,” Corrigan said.
Mansfield gave the Eagles the lead in the fourth minute, taking a feed from middie Mae Peterson as she cut toward the penalty stripe from the left and finished low into the right side.
At 33:03 the Highlanders took advantage of a rare careless Eagle weak-side mark. Proteau, behind her defender, received a ball from the left and tapped the ball back to Cormier, who finished low inside the left post.
Chances were few in the first half, but when the wind picked up at the Highlanders’ backs after the break they became more dangerous, and 10 minutes in Paine stopped a shot on a Harwood corner kick. The Eagles midway through the half also forced a corner kick, thanks to work from senior middie Vanessa Dykstra and Mansfield, but Harwood goalie Eve Golden (five saves) snared senior striker Emma Carter’s header.
With 18 minutes to go in the half, King made it 2-1. Her 25-yard direct kick from the right side got a boost from the wind and soared into the upper left corner.
The Eagles tied the game on a classic goal. Pitts raced down the left side and fed Mansfield a few yards outside the box. Pitts never broke stride, and Mansfield touched the ball just ahead of Pitts as she crossed the 18. Pitts pounded a low shot inside the left post and it was 2-2 at 9:29.
After the shots were 9-9 in regulation, the Eagles outshot Harwood, 9-4, in OT, with three Harwood shots on restarts. King hit the crossbar — again with the wind at her back from 30-plus yards — and Croteau headed wide with two minutes left in the first OT.
In the second OT a defender denied a Mansfield header on a restart as Harwood fouls became more frequent. Another restart set up the game-winner. Carter, from near midfield with the wind, lofted a ball into the right side of the box. Mansfield controlled and found Ober unmarked in the center of the box, and she right-footed the ball into the left side.
   MOUNT ABRAHAM UNION High School senior Delana Tow battles with Harwood senior Kaia Cormier during Saturday’s playoff game. The Eagles won the game in two overtimes, 3-2.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
In the Eagles’ 8-0 first-round win over No. 13 Lake Region on Wednesday Mansfield scored the first two goals, while Ober scored twice and set up three goals. Peterson and Pitts chipped in a goal and an assist apiece, Carter scored, and senior middie Delana Tow set up Peterson’s goal. Paine (two saves) and Ruby Ball split time in net for Mount Abe, while Lake Region’s Ebony Cota was credited with 21 saves.
Looking to Wednesday’s game, it is noteworthy that the Eagles lost to Rice at home on Sept. 9, but earned a 6-2 victory over the host Green Knights on Oct. 4. Mount Abe also split two one-goal games with No. 2 Milton (13-2-1), which will host No. 6 Montpelier (11-3-1) in the other semi.
With the Eagles’ chemistry and winning streak, Corrigan said they have a shot at two more victories.
“We have plenty of confidence we can beat Rice and Milton. We’ve beaten them before,” he said. “They’ve also beaten us, but we’re right there. I’m very optimistic about what our team can do.”
Right after Saturday’s drama, Ober had no doubt.
“I think this is our year,” she said. “I believe in these girls. They believe in us as a team. We’re going all the way.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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