Eagle field hockey wins title in double overtime
BURLINGTON — In the gloom and rain that blanketed the University of Vermont’s Moulton-Winder Field on Saturday afternoon, Mount Abraham’s Jalen Cook shone bright in Saturday’s Division II high school field hockey championship game.
A tie-breaking shootout loomed after the top-seeded Eagles lost a 2-0 lead on a pair of late goals by the No. 2 Burr & Burdon Bulldogs.
Those tallies sent the title game into 7-on-7 sudden-death overtime and Cook, already the Eagles’ standout scorer of the day, ended it with her third goal of the day.
MOUNT ABRAHAM SENIOR midfielder Casondra Dykstra makes a move during Saturday’s Division II field hockey final at UVM. Photo by Mark Bouvier
Cook strike at 4:12 of the second five-minute extra session let Mount Abraham avoid a fickle shootout on the drenched field. It gave the Eagles (11-3-3) their first title since 2013 and the eighth of Coach Mary Stetson’s tenure.
Conditions were cold and slick in the steady rain, and Stetson said days like Saturday are the reason the final two rounds of field hockey games are staged on turf surfaces.
“It wasn’t comfortable by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the same for both teams. We wouldn’t be playing if we didn’t play on turf,” she said.
Cook’s said she took advantage of her opportunity and the conditions to claim a championship that the Eagles nearly let slip away. As they did often in Saturday’s final, the Eagles swarmed the Burr & Burton defensive end, and Cook wound up in the right spot at the right time.
“We had the ball down there a lot. We had been dominating the second half and I just saw the goalie slip. It was super slippery and I knew I had to put that one in,” Cook said.
EAGLE FRESHMAN FORWARD Ava Konczal advances toward goal during Saturday’s final. The No. 1 Eagles defeated No. 2 Burr & Burton in double overtime, 3-2, to win the program’s eighth title. Photo by Mark Bouvier
Prior to the overtime, Cook said Stetson told the team “to play our game and stick together because if we play our game, we could pull it out.”
With that goal, the Eagles’ second-half struggles to put the ball in the cage, in part because of the play of Bulldog goalie Hannah Callen, became history.
“We didn’t execute well in the second half in terms of our play. We had numerous opportunities in the second half. Their goalie did a great job of coming up with some big saves,” Stetson said, adding, “I give Burr & Burton a lot of credit. They played until the final whistle.”
Cook said the Eagles bounced back after the 10-6-1 Bulldogs scored twice in the final 10 minutes to tie the score.
“We started out really strong, just playing our game,” Cook said. “Obviously we had a little blip. I think we stepped back a little bit. That’s not usually our game.”
Overall, Cook said she was the benefactor of the Eagles’ persistent offensive pressure.
“We knew it was just coming down to who wanted it more and that was us,” Cook said.
A FAMILIAR SIGHT in Saturday’s Division II field hockey final at UVM: Eagle senior forward Jalen Cook beating a Burr & Burton defender down the field. Cook scored all three goals for the No. 1 Eagles in their 3-2, double-overtime victory over the No. 2 Bulldogs. Photo by Mark Bouvier
Most of the season the Eagles have shared the scoring load, with players like freshmen Molly Laurent and Ava Konczal and senior central midfielders Evan Laurent and Casondra Dykstra among many Eagles racking up goals and assists. And Stetson noted Cook added plenty of helpers before erupting for five goals and two assists in three playoff games.
“She’s been a pleasure, the quintessential team player,” Stetson said.
From game’s start, the Eagles set the pace for extended periods of possession. The Bulldogs’ transition game occasionally created threats, but Mount Abraham set the tempo.
Stetson pointed to Evan Laurent and Dykstra as pivotal in keeping Burr & Burton out of its transition rhythm throughout most of the game, while Chessley Jackman turned in a solid performance in goal, including a huge save in overtime.
Cook’s first two goals came at 2:43 and 20:09 of the first half. The first resulted directly from Eagle ball movement and pressure.
“We started out really strong just playing our game as we had talk about it,” Cook said. “We were just using the little passes.”
The second came on a superb breakaway conversion.
EAGLE JUNIOR DEFENDER Abby Hoff looks to make a play up the field during Saturday’s Division II field hockey final. Photo by Mark Bouvier
“I practice those shots a lot from the side. I was just feeling it,” Cook said. “I could see a little corner on the opposite side and I knew I had to put it in.”
Mount Abraham continued to squelch Bulldog forays until the Bulldogs’ Celsey McMahon ratcheted up the tension with her goal with inside of 10 minutes left. Then, with 4:02 remaining in regulation, Arden Wojtach jammed in the tying goal.
But the Eagle defense and Jackman had the answers in overtime.
“We grew together as a team and we were willing to execute our game plan. That was the difference,” Stetson said.
Saturday’s final marked the last time eight seniors suited up for the Mount Abe field hockey team: Cook, Dykstra, Evan Laurent, Jackman, Olivia Heath, Elayna Jennings, Rosa Tropp and Sawyer Forbes.
THE DIVISION II champion Mount Abraham field hockey team, blinking in the steady rain and cold, pose with their trophy after winning Saturday’s final at UVM. Photo by Mark Bouvier