Tigers shrug off early deficit, claim D-I girls’ lacrosse title

BURLINGTON — There are many reasons the third-seeded Middlebury Union High School girls’ lacrosse team earned its second straight Division I title by defeating No. 1 Champlain Valley, 13-10, in Friday’s final on the University of Vermont’s Virtue Field.
A swarming defense led by seniors Keagan Dunbar, Abby Gleason and Olivia Beauchamp allowed only 15 shots on senior goalie Raven Payne. The Tigers picked off passes and knocked balls loose, and Payne made big saves in the final nine minutes with the game on the line.
And senior midfielder Isabel Rosenberg scored six goals, junior middie Emily Laframboise jump-started the offense in the first half and scored the game-winner, junior middie Lacey Greenamyre excelled playing defense and winning draws, and seniors Ella Nagy-Benson (two goals), Andi Boe (goal, assist) and Amanda Hodson (a late goal) all made timely offensive contributions.
But other reasons teams win championships are harder to quantify. For example, how did the Tigers get off the mat when their opponent had already defeated them twice this spring and hit them with a 4-0 haymaker in the first 9:27?
The Tigers first had a chance to answer that question after Redhawk all-star Lydia Maitland’s goal at 16:33. That’s when first-year MUHS Coach Brandi Whittemore called for time.
Whittemore afterward described the most important thing she told her team.
“The first message was just play our game,” Whittemore said. “We know what we came here for, so there was a switch that needed to happen. And the fire was lit.”
Dunbar said the Tigers knew they had to raise their level of play and poise.
“We never got down on ourselves. It was we need to get stops on defense and we need to put ourselves on the board,” Dunbar said. “We definitely took that message to heart and started to work harder and get those ground balls and just stopped making mistakes on defense.”
Rosenberg said the Tigers had to remember they had trailed before in playoff victories, 4-0 to Mount Mansfield a year ago and 3-0 to St. Albans just the week before — and their motto of “bring the fire.”
“I think we forgot it for a second. We got a little panicked. Then we had a timeout. We regrouped and said, ‘We can do this,’” she said. “Everybody played their hearts out. It can be sort of a cliché, but it was really true today. We turned it around.”
And then there were two coaching decisions during that timeout by Whittemore and assistants Joannie Donahue and Julie Neuberger. One was to shore up the defense with offense-defense substituting. Laframboise entered when the Tigers won the ball, and freshman defender Kaitlyn McNamara came in for her when CVU possessed to join Dunbar, Beauchamp, Gleason, Greenamyre, Rosenberg and junior middie Ada Anderson in the back.
“Joannie and I, we talked about it on the bus ride up,” Whittemore said. “And it was successful.”
The second was to have Greenamyre, not Rosenberg, take the draws and put Rosenberg in position to win the ball after the draws. Before that change, CVU won four of five. Afterward, MUHS won six straight and 14 of 21.
Rosenberg said the Tigers appreciate their coaches.
“It’s great to have coaches who have our backs and who can really make those decisions and help us,” she said.
   MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School junior Emily Laframboise, above, fires a shot behind CVU goalie Aki Wainer to score one of her three goals Friday. Below left, Tiger senior Andi Boe had a goal and an assist in Middlebury’s 13-10 win over CVU Saturday.
Independent photos/Trent Campbell
Maitland’s goal that made it 4-0 proved to be her only score of the game, another factor after she netted a combined 12 goals in the Redhawks’ 12-11 and 15-10 wins over MUHS this spring. “I don’t even know how many she had, but I think we shut her down,” Dunbar said of Maitland.
After the timeout the Tigers went to work. CVU goalie Ali Wainer (10 saves) stopped two shots, but Laframboise drove, was fouled and buried a free position at 13:11. Rosenberg controlled the next draw and nailed a free position to make it 4-2 at 12:40.
Senior middie Satchel McLaughlin won the next draw, and Laframboise steamed straight through the defense and found the lower right corner. Again the Tigers won the draw, and a Rosenberg free position at 10:17 made it 4-4. Then Nagy-Benson gave MUHS the lead at 9:38 with a free position after another CVU foul. The Tigers had scored five times in 6:55.
“People started driving and getting confidence,” Rosenberg said. “We got one goal, and then another, and then another, and we felt the momentum shift.”
CVU junior Cate Noel scored three times in the half’s final 8:09, twice in the last 1:43, while Boe and Rosenberg answered for MUHS, and the teams were tied, 7-7, at the break.
But CVU scored only three times in the second half.
“Today at the beginning of the game we weren’t talking as much as we should have been, we weren’t moving together,” Dunbar said. “We just really talked in the second half and really worked on moving together.”
The Tigers made it 9-7 on two Rosenberg goals, the second a quick-stick beauty on a behind-the-net feed from Boe at 17:54. But Noel hit a free position, and at 12:50 Becca Provost’s second goal of the game made it 9-9. Fifty seconds later Nagy-Benson netted a free position to make it 10-9, but at 9:40 Petra Kapsalis converted a Maitland feed to knot the score again.
Payne (five saves) then denied Noel from close range and another Redhawk on a scramble after the rebound before Greenamyre cleared at 8:00.
At 6:56 Laframboise dodged a defender out from the left post and found the right side, and the Tigers had the lead for good. A minute later Hodson curled from the left side and finished high over Wainer to make it 12-10.
At 4:20 Payne stopped Noel, and more interceptions and forced turnovers by the Tiger defense sealed CVU’s fate. Rosenberg added an exclamation-point goal at 0:31.
Rosenberg said the Tigers faced more adversity this year that during 2017 perfect season, but that in the end both seasons proved to be equally enjoyable.
“It’s so awesome and I feel privileged to be back here,” she said. “I think this year we came in more as underdogs. Last year we were flying high. This year we came back and said we are a different team than last year, but we can do it just as well as last year. So that’s how it went for us, and it worked out.”
Whittemore, an assistant and JV coach in 2017, said she was happy to be along for the ride.
“It’s amazing, but I can’t take credit,” she said. “I can’t ask for a better group. They all work hard. They’re here to play.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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