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Commodore girls’ lax on a roll, tops Stowe twice

VERGENNES — Two years ago the Vergennes-Mount Abraham cooperative girls’ lacrosse team won one game in its first season at the varsity level.
In 2018 the Commodores took a step forward, winning four times.
In 2019 the Commodores are 6-0 after back-to-back wins over Stowe, 10-3 on Monday at home and 5-2 on Tuesday on the road.
So, what’s going on here, Coach Marikate Kelley?
MIDFIELDER GRACE HARVEY keeps the ball from a Stowe player in the second half of Monday’s Commodore win in the Little City.
Independent photo/Steve James
To start with Kelley said there have been back-to-back groups of talented athletes joining the program who enjoyed success at the middle school level — this year’s freshmen were league champions in 2018. They’re coming in with skills.
“We have quite a few kids who can really play right hand and left hand,” Kelley said.
Senior captain Jalen Cook, a midfielder who is one of only six upperclassmen on the team, said the level of talent means more competition at practices and allows more emphasis on tactics rather than fundamentals. 
“We can do more strategy instead of focusing on just skills,” Cook said.
STOWE GOALIE ANNIKA Wagner saves a shot from Commodore Hannah Kelly in the second half of Monday’s game in Vergennes. Wagner stopped six shots in Monday’s 10-3 Commodore victory, but made 19 saves in Tuesday’s losing effort.
Independent photo/Steve James
And, Kelley added, the team simply has good athletes, and many of them — including Cook, junior Leah Croke, sophomores Hannah Kelly and Savannah Scrodin, and freshmen Molly Laurent, Txuxa Doherty-Konczal and Grace Harvey — have played on successful Eagle field hockey or Commodore and Eagle field hockey, basketball and soccer teams.
“We have a core of kids who … are big contributors in a couple different sports. We have kids who are quick, and kids who are fast,” Kelley said.
Tactics, skill and speed were all in evidence early in Monday’s win, in which the Commodores scored four times in the first 7:14.
Freshman attacker Ryley Olsen started the scoring after the Commodores patiently worked the ball for more than two minutes. She spotted an opening and cut in from the right side and finished low at 22:36.
STOWE DEFENDERS CAN only watch as Commodore captain Jalen Cook scores one of 10 goal for the home team in the first half of Monday’s game in Vergennes.
Independent photo/Steve James
At 21:41 Harvey dodged in from the top and finished with her left hand, and at 20:13 sophomore attacker Marley Keith cut through the fan and converted a feed from Kelly. At 17:46 junior attacker Siobhan Eagan found the right side to make it 4-0.
At 14:36 Stowe converted its first shot on goal, with Mackie Eagan spinning to find the left side past Commodore goalie Ashley Tierney. The Commodores answered less than a minute later, when sophomore attacker Sophie Davis and buried a feed from Keith.
Stowe began to tighten up on defense, but the Commodores still added two more goals before the half, Olsen from Keith and a transition strike from Harvey set up by Olsen.
After the Commodores won seven of nine draws in the first half, Stowe won three of six in the second and also continued to be more aggressive on defense. Keith scored and set up a Cook goal for VUHS, and Cook assisted Olsen. Sierra Anderson added a pair for Stowe. Tierney faced only three more shots and stopped one of them, while Stowe goalie Annika Wagner finished with six saves.
COMMODORE SENIOR JALEN Cook drives forward with the ball in the second half of the win over Stowe on Monday.
Independent photo/Steve James
Stowe continued its tougher defense at home on Tuesday, and Wagner had a big game with 19 saves as the Commodores were more limited offensively.
But Harvey’s three goals and a goal and an assist apiece from Keith and Doherty-Konczal were enough offense with the VUHS defense — junior Emma Beauchemin, Scrodin and freshman Elena Bronson all did good work on Monday — and Tierney (seven saves) playing well.
Kelley also said the defensive ability of her midfielders — including Cook, Harvey, Doherty-Konczal, Croke, Laurent — played a major role, with Harvey scooping a dozen ground balls.
“The Stowe goalie had a great game and we had trouble finishing. The girls hung tough on defense and did a good job redefending and keeping possession to come up with the win,” she said. “(It) wasn’t pretty, but good to see they can find a way to win a close one despite being unable to find the back of the net.”
So, can this team make a run at a title?
VERGENNES MIDFIELDER GRACE Harvey is thwarted by Stowe goalie Annika Wagner in the second half of the Commodores’ home win on Monday.
Independent photo/Steve James
Kelley said they would have to keep focusing on getting better and playing as a team.
“If they keep working hard and we keep making adjustments, I think … that we could contend,” Kelley said.
Cook has played on two championship teams and knows not to look too far ahead.
“That’s always the end goal, so we’ll see where it goes,” Cook said. “We’re kind of one game at a time. We’ll just win every game we can and work from there.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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