Mt. Abe field hockey overcomes Otters’ challenge

SOUTH BURLINGTON — Monday’s Division II high school field hockey semifinal at South Burlington High School between No. 1 Mount Abraham and an upset-minded No. 4 Otter Valley squad saw both teams play their hearts out, and play well.
Ultimately, the 10-3-3 Eagles, who controlled most of the second half after the Otters rocked them in the first 30 minutes, held off an OV surge in the final five minutes to nail down a 2-1 victory and book a date in Saturday’s final at the University of Vermont.
They will play at noon against either No. 2 Burr & Burton (9-5-1) or No. 3 Woodstock (9-4-2), teams that were set to meet in a Wednesday semifinal.
Mount Abe forward Jalen Cook, who led her team’s offense with a goal and an assist, said the Eagles will be ready on Saturday — and will do well if they play like they did over Monday’s final 30 minutes.
“We have to be really calm now. I think we’ve got it,” Cook said. “We’re just going to play Eagle hockey, and our game is just going to succeed like it did today.”
Even though Cook’s early goal helped the Eagles to a 1-1 halftime tie, Mount Abe Coach Mary Stetson said her team might have been fortunate not to trail at the break. In the first half the Otters outshot the Eagles, 5-4; earned an 8-4 advantage in penalty corners; and Eagle defender Maizy Shepard made a remarkable save on Alia Edmunds’ waist-high bullet.
“They’re a good team. They were very assertive, and I think they have a good scoring presence, and it’s tough to try to minimize that,” Stetson said. “They did an excellent job getting through and getting great shots at the net.”
OV Coach Stacey Edmunds said her 10-6 team could easily have won.
“We played well. I think we dominated most of the first half,” Edmunds said. “We fought hard and gave them a game I don’t think they expected. I don’t think anybody expected we would challenge them the way we did.”
After the Otters forced an early corner and senior middie Sophie Markowski shot just wide, the Eagles countered quickly and worked the ball into the OV circle. OV goalie Ellie Ross stopped Cook’s first bid, but Cook corralled the rebound and flicked it high into the net to make it 1-0 with 2:29 gone.
Then OV began to press. Alia Edmunds blasted a shot wide from the right side, and on another corner Markowski just missed on an Edmunds set-up.
The Eagles countered midway through the period with two corners. Ross (six saves) denied Elizabeth Porter, and defender Livia Bernhardt — who played a strong game — cleared the ball from a goalmouth scrum on the second. Flyer Jordan Laraway — she, Markowski and center back Gabriella LaGrange are OV’s only seniors — also disrupted Eagle corners.
Then OV began to press again. On a corner Markowski inserted to Morgan LaPorte at the top of the circle. She drove a diagonal ball to freshman Brittney Jackson at the left post, and Jackson rapped it home at 10:24 to tie the game.
MOUNT ABRAHAM FRESHMAN Molly Laurent raps home the second-half game-winner during the No. 1 Eagles’ 2-1 Division II field hockey semifinal victory over Otter Valley at South Burlington High School on Monday. To the left are Eagle Jalen Cook; who earned an assist on the play; OV defender Livia Bernhardt, who had a strong game; and sprawling OV goalie Ellie Ross, who made five saves. Below, Cook, Ava Konczal and Elizabeth Porter celebrate Cook’s early goal.
Photos by Mark Bouvier
The Otters kept coming and earned four straight corners. On the fourth, with about 3:00 to go, Edmunds won the ball about 15 feet out from the left post and ripped a shot past goalie Chessley Jackman toward the center of the cage. Shepard was waiting and somehow managed to cleanly stick the shot away.
At halftime the Eagles remembered being on the ropes against some of their many D-I opponents this fall, and bouncing back by playing their possession game.
“We talked about games where we had the same kind of performance … So now we have to talk about the game that has made us a strong team,” Stetson said. “And that’s our give-and-go passing. Putting pressure on the ball, but also, once we possess the ball, being more thoughtful with the ball, looking for the passes that are open.”
Cook said the Eagles also talked about getting to the ball first, because they knew the assertive Otters had often been the ones doing that.
“We talked just about playing Eagle hockey and just sticking to the things we do well, little passes and just possessing the ball. So we came out in the second half and we were ready to turn it around, and we did. We turned it around,” Cook said.
In the second half the penalty corner tally reversed, with the Eagles getting a 7-3 edge — five unanswered in the first 12 minutes and the shots finished even at 8-8.
Those five corners created three great chances for freshman Molly Laurent, the first two set up by Cook and Laurent’s senior sister, Evan Laurent, who joined with senior Casondra Dykstra at center midfield to help tilt the second-half field Mount Abe’s way.
Those first two chances went wide, but the third did not. The Eagles inserted on the right side and worked the ball to Cook out front. Cook flicked a backhanded shot on Ross that Ross kicked toward the left post, where a waiting Laurent tucked it home at 18:56.
Both teams had chances over the next 12 minutes. On a penalty corner Jackman (five saves) ranged off her line to make the save on an Edmunds blast, and Dykstra cleared. At the other end Ross denied Molly Laurent, and Molly Laurent just missed converting a feed from her sister with eight minutes to go.
Then the Otters came on strong. With five minutes to go Jackman stopped an Edmunds flick, and after a long goalmouth scramble Cook finally rapped the ball out of harm’s way. With two minutes to go the Otters worked the ball to Jackson again on another corner, but Shepard made a point-blank defensive save on the low tip-in bid.
As time wound down Dykstra and, fittingly, Shepard broke up the last OV rushes.
Coach Edmunds praised her young team — OV’s roster includes eight ninth-graders — for its toughness, ability to perform so well on South Burlington’s turf after just one practice on Castleton University’s turf, and its 10-win season.
“I certainly am proud of them,” Edmunds said. “These girls, they play hard, and they adapt, and they do what they need to do to win games. They should be absolutely proud of the season, because it’s been a good one.”
Cook praised OV and the Eagle backline of Shepard, Camille Lyons and Abby Hoff.
“Their (the Otters’) energy got higher because they wanted to come back,” Cook said. “But our defense, Maizy Shepard and Camille back there, they make so many saves, and Chessley is an awesome goalie, they held us together.”

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