Eagle senior tops in local field hockey: Independent All Star picks unveiled

ADDISON COUNTY — Local high school field hockey teams experienced mixed results this season, but certainly all three benefitted from strong individual performances that are recognized here in the 2017 Addison Independent Field Hockey All-Star Team.
Coach Mary Stetson’s Mount Abraham squad ended up with the best finish, a run to the Division II semifinal, but not the best record — 5-7-4 with most games against tough D-I competition. The Eagles’ success derived from strong goaltending and defense, some of it from 2017 Addison Independent Player of the Year Emily Aldrich. The Mount Abe goalie and three more Eagles join Aldrich on the Independent squad.
Coach Stacey Edmunds’ Otter Valley team couldn’t dent the Eagles in a D-II quarterfinal, but enjoyed a fine 9-3-2 season despite major graduation losses from the 2016 squad. Three Otters, including the area’s leading scorer, are honored here.
Coach Chelsey Giuliani’s Middlebury group was hit hard not only by graduation but also by prep school decisions and finished at 1-13-1 against mostly D-I foes. But the Tigers tied the Eagles, won a D-II playoff game, and kept up their spirits. Three Tigers earned Independent recognition.
Choices were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
EMILY ALDRICH, MT. ABE SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: After two years as a central defender moved up early this season to defensive central midfield and thrived with new responsibilities … Used her stick skills, game sense and field vision to key the Eagles’ transition out of the back … Made good use of her defensive skills to anticipate and break up opponents’ advances at midfield … Good passer who stepped into the attack to create chances for her teammates, assisting on two goals and scoring one.
Stetson’s Quotes: “It was great to see Emily keep peaking as the season went on … She definitely was critical in our transition from defense to offense … She could maneuver out of tight spaces. She had real good solid individual stickwork … She knew the value of stopping the opposition above the 25 … She had good speed and an explosive step to the ball … She just had her best games at the end. You always want that for a kid, especially a senior … She’s someone who improved her skills every year she played … She was definitely one of our leaders … Kids looked to her.”
ALIA EDMUNDS, OV SOPHOMORE. Notes: After missing her freshman season with an injury, made a statement as a sophomore with local highs of 16 goals, including two hat tricks, and seven assists, figuring in on 23 of OV’s 40 goals … Highly skilled player with a quick first step and terrific one-on-one and passing ability … Scored a highlight-reel goal vs. Windsor by air-dribbling around several defenders before knocking the ball in without it touching the ground.
Edmunds’ Quotes: “She scored in every game we scored in … She was a skilled player and because of her work ethic she was valuable to her team … She has excellent stick skills and is good at eliminating defenders … She has a range of shot options and uses them all very well … Alia sees the field exceptionally well, makes good decisions and sends nice offers to her teammates in the circle … She returned to the field with a bang.”
CHESSLEY JACKMAN, MT. ABE JUNIOR. Notes: As a goalie, racked up 95 saves in the Metro Conference, the state’s toughest league, and came off her line to disrupt many more scoring chances and even start the Eagles in transition … Stopped a penalty stroke vs. Mount Mansfield to help the Eagles earn a tie … Athletic, mobile goalie with quick reflexes who this year showed improved communication skills and ability to direct the defense.
Stetson’s Quotes: “She had a great year … There was a lot of breakaway play, and she had to learn and she did well to come out and play players one v. one … She moved well. She covers a lot of ground … It’s not only how you can do your position well, but how you can direct traffic, and she did a good job of that … The kids looked to her to communicate … There was a real good defensive corps back there, and she was the backbone of it.”
JALEN COOK, MT. ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Relentless attacker who led the Eagle attack with nine goals, including the quarterfinal game-winner vs. OV, and three assists … Combined speed, long arms and skill to possess the ball on offense and knock the ball away from defenders and create chances … Showed both a nose for the goal and the unselfish willingness to set up teammates.
Stetson’s Quotes: “She developed some good one v. one play … She moves off the ball well when she passes it. When you have a player who does that who is as fast as Jalen, that’s tough to mark … She’s a real competitor. She made a big difference for us in the middle … Not only does she score, but she creates scoring opportunities and keeps the ball alive because of her speed … She’s a consummate team player.”
RAVEN PAYNE, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Strong, fast central defender who used her quickness and ability to anticipate plays to disrupt opponents in the circle and at midfield … Fearless player in the back who was credited with at least 10 goal-line saves this fall … Team leader who helped create offense for the Tigers with good passing, powerful hits and aerials.
Giuliani’s Quotes: “There was very little hesitation in her play ever … What makes her a really good defender is her reads in interrupting play … She has really strong aerials. That was a really valuable tool for us to have … She had really strong hits that allowed us to move to space and create some forward momentum … She had more defensive saves than we had documented … She’s completely unafraid … She’s a really strong leader.”
LAURA WHITLEY, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Tireless two-way central midfielder who was vital to the Tigers on the field at both ends and as a leader … Quick, skilled, versatile player who was a four-year contributor to the varsity program and two-year captain … Sees the field well on the attack and creates good chances for her teammates, and assisted three goals … Defended tenaciously and read plays well.
Giuliani’s Quotes: “She’s just an all-around mid … We relied on her defensively and in the attacking circle … She’s also a communicator, so the tone she set was really important … She has strong skills and strong tactical skills … Her hits are really consistent and powerful … She’s a super hard worker. You never have to worry about her not giving everything she can … The younger girls just love her. She works really hard specifically to make them feel welcome.”
OLIVIA YOUNG, MT. ABE SENIOR. Notes: Took over at center mid after a year at defensive mid and didn’t miss a beat … Helped the Eagle offense with smart decisions and sharp passing while recording four assists and a goal … Put her defensive ability to good use stepping into passing lanes and dispossessing opponents and serving as the flyer when the Eagles defended penalty corners.
Stetson’s Quotes: “Olivia was a nice spark in the middle … She helped us sustain some attack … She was not afraid. If the opposition was winding up to take a hit she was always trying to jab that ball … She disrupted many a penalty corner … One of the reasons we scored more goals was because of her offensive-mindedness … She’s a real strong team player … She picks her head up. She looks for those options … She’s a solid leader.”
SOPHIE MARKOWSKI, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Versatile, quick, two-way player who found a home at center mid this fall … Thrived on the attack, where she had a nose for the goal and scored four times, and set up chances and advanced the ball with strong aerials … Disruptive force defensively … Was named a captain during the season to recognize her contributions as a team leader.
Edmunds’ Quotes: “She never gave up … We made her a captain a couple weeks into a season. She earned it … When we moved her up she would score. When we dropped her back she played well defensively, helped us keep the ball out of the circle … All around she was just really strong for us.”
GABBY LAGRANGE, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Linchpin at center back of an OV defense that posted six shutouts and held another five opponents to one goal … Quick and steady one-on one defender … Smart positional player who anticipated well and read passing lanes … Moved the ball well out of the back to start the OV attack.
Edmunds’ Quotes: Gabby’s solid back there. She’s a great player … She’s fast and has good stick skills … She can transition play from the backfield really skillfully … She knows the game … She knows where we want the ball and how to get it there … Gabby was exceptionally consistent for us.”
ABBY LAROCK, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Smart and reliable defender with the stick skills and field sense to move up to midfield and trigger transition play … Anticipates well and uses a quick first step to break up many plays outside the circle, and tough to beat individually … Consistent driver and good passer.
Giuliani’s Quotes: “She was always very consistent … Abby takes really smart steps to the ball. Abby’s really intelligent, so she reads play very well, and that gains her possession … She has really strong hits that advances us forward … She’s tactically sound … She’s reliable in the circle. She doesn’t draw a lot of fouls … She’s comfortable stepping up into that midfield role … She has strong one-v-one skills as well.”
ROBYN ARENA, MT. ABE SENIOR. Notes: Left back who routinely shut down other teams’ dangerous right wings … Passed well out of the back … Missed time early with an injury and helped the Eagle defense gel upon her return … Credited with three defensive saves … Read plays well and stepped up well at midfield to break up opponents’ advances.
Stetson’s Quotes: “She was able to channel play and keep it wide. She never let the ball get back inside her … She marked well when she was on the weak side of the ball, so the ball could not go into that post … She definitely transitioned the ball out well, and she definitely had enough field presence so the ball could be dropped back to her.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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