MUHS girls’ lax outlast the Bulldogs

MIDDLEBURY — The third-seeded Middlebury Union High School girls’ lacrosse team on Saturday overcame a slow start against No. 6 Burr & Burton for an 11-9 quarterfinal win that kept alive the Tigers’ hopes for a second straight Division I title.
The Bulldogs scored three times in the first 5:27 and still led at the half, 6-5. But the Tigers won the first five draws of the second half and netted three straight goals — by seniors Isabel Rosenberg, Ella Nagy-Benson and Andi Boe — in the half’s first 6:09.
Burr & Burton (9-9) kept it close, and the Tigers needed key ground ball wins and forced turnovers, big stops by goalie Raven Payne, and a late Boe goal to nail down the victory over the 9-9 Bulldogs.
The Tigers (12-3) will next travel on Wednesday to No. 2 Brattleboro (14-3), which also fought off a tough challenge in a Saturday quarterfinal: The Colonels defeated No. 7 Rutland, 8-7, in double overtime. The Tigers and Colonels have not met this spring. No. 1 Champlain Valley (15-2) and No. 5 South Burlington (13-4) will play in the other semifinal. If the Tigers win on Wednesday, the final will be at the University of Vermont on Friday.
After Friday’s quarterfinal, the Tigers said looking ahead they need stronger starts.
Rosenberg, who finished tied with Boe with a team-high three goals, talked about “coming out hard from the very beginning” on Wednesday — and hopefully Friday.
“It comes down to draw control a lot, and then taking care of the ball on offense,” said the senior tri-captain. “And I think we know how to do that. It’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it. We have all the pieces.”
In Saturday’s second half, Rosenberg said the Tigers showed better ball movement and defensive effort, in particular disrupted the Bulldogs’ attempts to work the ball up the field.
“I think we just decided it was not going to be our last game,” Rosenberg said. “We just went out there tooth and nail. I think what was really different in the second half was our re-defend. We really picked it up. I think it was the best it’s ever looked. Everybody on the team said. ‘It’s our ball. We want this ball.’”
First-year Coach Brandi Whittemore noted the better play.
“I think we started the second half with fire. We talked about the controllables, what we could control, which luckily was our passing and catching, so it was an easy fix,” Whittemore said. “We talked about it and the team totally changed their game.”
Whittemore also credited the Bulldogs for bolting out of the gate.
“They came out ready to fight, and I think we were a little caught off-guard,” she said.
Grace Petty scored for BBA in the first minute, burying a pass from behind the net. Shayla Heekin cashed in a turnover soon afterward, and at 19:33 Heekin (a goal and four assists) set up the first of Olivia Watanabe’s seven goals, and Whittemore called timeout.
Rosenberg then controlled the draw and scored 21 seconds later, but at 13:46 Watanabe struck again to make it 4-1. Finally MUHS got some traction. Boe circled the net for one score, Satchel McLaughlin buried a free position, and two strong moves by middie Emily Laframboise gave the Tigers the lead, 5-4, at 3:34.
Watanabe tied the score at 2:58. Boe looked to have restored the lead a minute later, but instead was carded for a dangerous follow-through, and Watanabe scored in the half’s final minute to make it 6-5, BBA, at the break.
Then the Tigers took charge, in part by controlling the draws, with Rosenberg, Lacey Greenamyre and Ada Anderson all doing good work. Rosenberg equalized after a long possession at 22:11, and Ella Nagy-Benson gave the Tigers the lead for good at 19:47 after a nice pass from Greenamyre. Boe beat a defender at 18:56 to give the Tigers a two-goal lead for the first time, 8-6.
Even with the Tigers now dominating possession, Watanabe kept BBA in the game. She made it 8-7 at 17:02, and after a Rosenberg free position goal, Heekin set up Watanabe at 14:47. Payne then made a kick save on Watanabe to preserve the lead. A card put BBA a player down, and Anderson converted a long Rosenberg cross-crease feed to make it 10-8. But Watanabe buried another Heekin feed at 11:51 to make it one-goal game.
The Tigers controlled over the next few minutes, but at 7:00 BBA got the ball back and Watanabe drew a foul and a free position. Payne knocked away her low bid, but Heekin scooped the ball, and Payne stopped her high shot.
“Raven was amazing, especially on those free positions,” Rosenberg said.
At 5:25 BBA goalie Cassie Pearce (four saves) could not stop Boe — who is making her mark after returning from major knee surgery — on a free position, and the Tigers possessed most of the rest of the way to book a trip to Brattleboro.
As for winning that game and maybe one more afterward, Rosenberg offered a simple plan: “We just have to bring the fire.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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