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Commodore girls’ lacrosse dodges upset in overtime

VERGENNES — It took clutch defensive plays, big saves and an overtime goal from a player who has been there and done that, but the No. 1 Vergennes-Mount Abraham girls’ lacrosse team on Friday survived No. 9 Woodstock’s spirited upset bid to win in double overtime, 7-6, in a Division II quarterfinal.
To do so, the 15-0 Commodores had to solve not only a Woodstock team with a misleading 3-12 record (10 of those losses came against D-I competition), but also hot goaltending. Junior Wasp goalie Kai Albers, a German exchange student, stopped 18 shots, 10 in the second half and two in overtime.
Finally, the team’s only senior starter, Jalen Cook answered the riddle — unsurprisingly. Cook’s double-overtime game-winner in the D-II field hockey final this past November gave her Mount Abe field hockey team the title.
Freshman midfielder Grace Harvey made a steal and bolted toward goal, but three defenders blocked her path in the left side of the fan. Harvey fed the ball to Cook coming down the middle, and Cook found room. After a few strides gave her space to shoot, the left-hander whipped the ball high into the left side of the net and raised her stick in triumph as her teammates raced to hug their co-captain.
Cook said she had hoped Harvey would end the game with her third goal of the afternoon.
“I was saying, ‘Grace, go get one.’ But they crashed really well. They played good D on her,” Cook said. “So I got the kick (pass back), and I saw an open lane, and I took it.”
Cook was in position to win the game because of a team-wide effort. With seconds to go in the first overtime junior defender Emma Beauchemin raced back to break up a transition feed to a Wasp on sophomore goalie Ashley Tierney’s doorstep.
And Tierney (six saves) made two huge stops on Wasp Gina Sorrentino in the middle of the second half with the game hanging in the balance, and she denied Sophie Leggett bid for a game-winner early in the second-overtime.
And freshman Ryley Olson’s third goal of the game was every bit as important as Cook’s.
It came with 2:12 in regulation on a free position from a tough angle on the right side. Olson bolted in, faked high, and backhanded a shot past Albers’ right foot to tie the game at 6-6.
Coach Marikate Kelley also said the Commodores took over after Leggett gave the Wasps a 6-5 lead with 4:23 to go. Tierney’s overtime save was the only shot they allowed the rest of the way, while the Commodores put six on Albers.
COMMODORE SOPHOMORE HANNAH KELLY fights off pressure from Wasp Sophie Leggett in the Commodores double-overtime win over Woodstock on Friday. Kelly played both defense and midfield as her team advanced to a home semifinal on Tuesday. Photo by Mark Bouvier
For most of the game the Wasps had been able to work the ball up the field successfully, a rare sight this spring against the Commodores’ full-field defensive effort. That changed over the last 10 minutes, with Harvey, Hannah Kelly and Txuza Doherty-Konczal doing the most damage.
“They were hard to re-defend, but at the end I thought our re-defend finally paid off. I don’t know if they were tired or if the kids didn’t want to lose and started playing it a little harder, but I thought our re-defend at the end finally got us the goal,” Kelley said. “I just think in a close game as it got down to the end kids just stepped up.”
The Wasps served notice early they intended to give the Commodores a game, but Tierney frustrated Sorrentino twice early on and then denied Audrey Eggum. Still, Woodstock took the lead at 14:37 when Eggum, momentarily alone out front, needed a feed from Sidney Pilot.
VUHS-MOUNT ABE SENIOR Jalen Cook, right, and freshman Grace Harvey go after a draw during the Commodores’ double-overtime victory over Woodstock on Friday. They helped the VUHS-Mount Abe cooperative team win eight of 12 draws as the undefeated Commodores advanced to a Tuesday semifinal. Photo by Mark Bouvier
But the Commodores controlled the rest of the half. Olson equalized at 11:51, cutting in front and converting a Harvey feed. At 7:51 Cook raced in from midfield to make it 2-1. Cook then controlled the draw. Harvey scooped the ball and dashed in to score 14 seconds later. At 1:06 Kelly set up Olson out front, and the lead was 4-1 at the break.
As Albers impersonated the Berlin Wall in the second half, the Wasps tied the game at 15:20, getting one goal from Sorrentino and two from Eggum. Harvey dodged in to put the Commodores back on top at 11:57, but despite Tierney’s work goals by Addie Gray and Leggett put Woodstock on top with time getting late.
But ultimately all the Wasps did was wake up the Commodores, five of whom were sophomores playing in their second-ever lacrosse playoff game, and five more of whom were freshmen in their first.
COMMODORE SOPHOMORE DEFENDER Savannah Scrodin moves the ball up the field against Woodstock’s Averi Shewmaker during the VUHS-Mount Abe girls’ lacrosse team’s double-overtime quarterfinal playoff win on Saturday. Photo by Mark Bouvier
Kelley said they finally might have shaken off some of the nerves by the end.
“I’ve got a lot of young players. And having an undefeated season adds another layer of pressure, and having first seed adds another layer of pressure. It’s a lot for a young team to have,” she said. “I’m really fortunate to have a senior like Jalen, who really helps bring everybody up in terms of dealing with that kind of pressure,”
VUHS-MOUNT ABE SENIOR girls’ lacrosse player Jalen Cook raises her stick after scoring the double-overtime game-winner vs. Woodstock in a quarterfinal. Freshman teammates Grace Harvey, left, and Ryley Olson race toward her to join the celebration. Photo by Mark Bouvier
Cook expects the Commodores to be ready for visiting No. 4 Hartford on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., and hopefully for a final at the University of Vermont, probably on Friday.
“Obviously the nerves will still be there the further we go in the playoffs, but I think that now we all have the experience, and we know what it’s like to play an overtime, and have that super close game, I think we’re going to bring our best for the semis and hopefully win that one, too,” Cook said.

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