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Eagle field hockey edged in D-II semifinal

MIDDLEBURY — The No. 6 Mount Abraham Union High School field hockey team controlled most of the first half and took the lead vs. No. 2 Spaulding in Monday’s Division II semifinal, but The Tide turned it on in the second half to rally past the Eagles, 2-1.
The 5-7-4 Eagles suffered their first loss to a D-II team this fall (5-1-1), while the 14-1 Tide will meet 16-0 Bellows Falls for the title on Saturday at the University of Vermont.
The Terriers — coached by Bethany Coursen, known to a number of Addison County field hockey athletes and parents for her work at the Cape Cod Classic and Super Sophs summer tournaments — are unbeaten in two years and moved up to D-II this season after winning the D-III crown in 2015 and 2016 and will be favored. Bellows Falls will enter the final having outscored its opposition, including six D-I foes, by 104-4.
The Eagles record included a 1-0 quarterfinal win last week at No. 3 Otter Valley in which they did not allow a shot on goal, and four of their losses prior to Monday, all of which came to D-I competition, came by either one or two goals.
“We had a great season, and I couldn’t have asked any more from my team,” said Mount Abe Coach Mary Stetson. “They did a great job. I’m proud of them. Only one team’s happy in the end.”
   EAGLE JUNIOR JALEN Cook, second from left, and teammate Olivia Heath react after Cook scored the only Eagle goal against Spaulding Monday afternoon. The Eagles lost the game, 2-1.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Monday’s game vs. Spaulding, which played a mostly D-III schedule, was essentially statistically even: The Eagles held edges of 7-6 in shots on goal and 4-3 in penalty corners.
But once the Tide found the back of the cage to knot the score three minutes into the second half they controlled possession and territory the rest of the way.
“They were quicker to the ball in the second half,” Stetson said. “I thought we did well and executed the game plan we wanted to do. They were a step quicker to the ball and more opportunistic than we were.”
Spaulding also started quickly in the first half. In the ninth minute Eagle goalie Chessley Jackman (four strong saves) kicked away Tide forward Lauren Bedard’s bid, and after Tide forward Riley McFaun flicked a shot over the cage in the 13th minute Stetson called timeout.
The Eagles responded by dominating the rest of the half. Tide middie Madison Henderson made a defensive save on Eagle senior middie Olivia Young in the 14th minute, and Young also drove a ball just out of the reach of forward Elizabeth Nault’s tip-in bid just afterward. Young and forward Jalen Cook set up a couple chances for forward Evan Laurent before the Eagles broke through at 7:28.
The play started on a penalty corner. The Tide tried to clear, but the Eagles sent the ball back into forward Olivia Heath to the left of the goal. Heath crossed to the middle, and Laurent tapped it back to the left post to Cook for the tip-in.
   MOUNT ABRAHAM UNION High School junior Casondra Dykstra centers a pass during Monday’s Division II semifinal game.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
The Eagles had more chances to extend the lead. A minute after the goal Young, Cook and middie Casondra Dykstra broke into the circle. Young passed to her left to Cook who relayed to Dykstra. Dykstra, who played a strong all-around game, fired inches wide of the left post, and Spaulding called for time to stall the Eagle momentum.
Cook and Dykstra forced another penalty corner with 3:30 to go, but Tide defender Amanda Gerrish broke the play up.
After the Eagles earned another corner early in the second half, the Tide scored during a scramble. Makayla Boisvert popped a shot inside the right post at 27:10, with Morgan Mast getting credited for the assist.
The Eagles had a good chance to regain the lead when Cook forced a penalty corner five minutes in, but Tide goalie Calista Hannah (five saves) blocked Laurent’s tip.
The Eagles made plays to preserve the tie. Senior defenders Emily Aldrich, Carley Sherwin and Robyn Arena all did good work, Jackman came 10 feet out of the cage to deny Alison Ahearn seven minutes into the half, and then made back-to-back stops on Ahearn with 14 minutes to go.
The Tide notched the game-winner at 11:10 on a corner. Anna Clark-Blouin worked the ball to Ahearn on the left side, and she popped a 20-foot shot just inside the far post.
The Eagles tried to generate offense, but after Tide defender Madison Henderson broke up a Cook and Laurent rush with nine minutes to go and Young just missed connecting with Laurent with eight minutes left, Spaulding gave Mount Abe no more looks at goal.
“They deserved to win,” Stetson said. “They’re a good team.”
Along with Aldrich, Young, Arena and Sherwin, also graduating from the Eagle team will be defender Martha Bruhl, forwards Chloe Lyons and Cecilia Vichi, and middies Abby Perlee and Abigail Nezin.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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