VUHS-Mt. Abe lacrosse girls cap 14-0 season

VERGENNES — In Thursday’s girls’ lacrosse game against second-place Green Mountain Valley School, Vergennes-Mount Abraham senior Jalen Cook took the opening draw for the undefeated, first-place Commodores. 
Cook won a brief battle for the ball, bolted down the rain-soaked turf, and finished with a shot high into the left side of the net. 
Twenty-one seconds in, message sent.
GMVS had been the top-seeded program in each of the past two Division II postseasons, won the title in 2017, and lost the 2018 final by a goal. 
But the Gumbies, winners of eight straight entering Thursday’s game at VUHS with an 8-1 mark, could do nothing to prevent the Commodores from completing their third season of varsity play at 14-0. 
The final score was 10-3, as Cook led the way with four goals and an assist despite sitting out 20 minutes after getting whacked on the back of her hand. 
But the story was a Commodore defense that has allowed just 3.4 goals per game this season. In the back Hannah Kelly, Alyse Beauchemin, Elena Bronson, Savannah Scrodin and Molly Laurent — the backer in their zone — rarely allowed GMVS a good look on goalie Ashley Tierney. Tierney was credited with six saves, but that might have been generous; it did not appear GMVS put that many shots on goal.
“We’ve got a great backer in Molly, and everybody else is pinching and helping each other out, talking,” said Commodore Coach Marikate Kelley. 
Much of the time the Gumbies didn’t get the ball that far up the field. The Commodore attackers and midfielders broke up clears, knocked balls down and won them back, or just picked off passes. Among the attackers Sophie Davis scooped four ground balls and caused one turnover to lead the re-defending effort.
But the midfielders did the most damage, notably Grace Harvey (10 groundballs, four caused turnovers), Txuxa Doherty-Konczal (seven groundballs, three caused turnovers) and Cook (four groundballs, one caused turnover).
“We re-defended really well today, I thought, which we have all season,” Kelley said.
The Commodores also controlled 10 of 14 draws and possessed the ball consistently on offense when they weren’t scoring in transition.
“The attack, at least the first half of the game, was really patient,” Kelley said. “We started to make really good decisions and take really good shots.”  
After Cook’s opening blow, the Commodore aggression started forcing Gumby fouls. GMVS goalie Molly Quinlan (17 saves) stopped the first resulting free position, but Harvey found the lower left corner on the second, 7:02 into the game. Thirty-three seconds later Kelly, who excelled at both defense and midfield, dodged in and beat Quinlan with her left hand.
Tierney shortly afterward denied Ava Comey for her first save, and GMVS settled on defense, while Quinlan started making saves. But the Commodore pressure paid off eventually. After Harvey forced a turnover at midfield she steamed in and scored at 3:55. At 3:04 Cook found attacker Ryley Olsen out front, and Olsen scooped a clever backhand home to make it 5-0. 
Molly Queally netted a good feed from Emma Austin at 0:38, and it was 5-1 at the break. A four-goal deficit is not insurmountable in lax, but it was on Thursday. Cook broke the ice in the second half, picking the right side from 10 yards out at 21:42. Harvey whipped home a free position at 20:16, and it was 7-1. 
Queally got one back for GMVS at 13:49, but after two goals from Cook, one on a feed from Harvey and one from middie Leah Croke, it was 10-2 at 5:01. Gumby Julia Brophy tossed in a late goal.
The Commodore team’s three seniors were honored before the game: Cook, attacker and co-captain Siobhan Eagan, and reserve goalie Lillian Goodyear. 
The Vermont Principals’ Association on Monday will make the Commodores the top seed in the post-season playoffs, and they will host games through the final. Defending champion U-32 (9-2) and GMVS will be the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds in some order, depending on weekend results. VUHS defeated U-32 twice this season, 9-8 both times. 
The first meeting between VUHS and U-32 convinced Kelley the Commodores could be special. 
“U-32, Green Mountain Valley, they’ve been in the final the last two years,” Kelley said. “So until we played one of them I didn’t have a sense of where we stood.”
Now they stand 14-0.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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