Sports

Eagles ground Wasps; another final up next

MOUNT ABRAHAM’S CARLY Rougier loses her stick and goes flying in a clash with Hartford midfielder Jasmine Jenkins in the first half of Friday’s game in Bristol. Jenkins was called for a penalty and the Eagles went on to win, 2-1.

BRISTOL — After the Mount Abraham Union High School field hockey team’s 8-2 victory over visiting Woodstock in Tuesday’s Division II semifinal, senior defensive midfielder Liz Porter took a moment to reflect on a season that began with uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite a late start to the season, the doubt whether there would even be a season, and a short preseason for a young team — Porter, a co-captain, is essentially the team’s only senior starter — the fall is ending where it often does for Eagle field hockey, with a trip to the D-II final. They will face. No. 2 Burr & Burton on Saturday at 11 a.m. 
Porter talked about how she and her two senior teammates — co-captain Sarah Lavigne, who shares time on defense, and reserve forward Kierra Lacey — felt about coming into the season, and how it feels now that the Eagles can win a third straight title. 
“As a senior it was definitely we’ll take what we can get, and we’ll work with it. And we just knew that whatever we were going to do with it, it was going to be fun,” Porter said. “We didn’t even know if we were going to have a season, and this is way more than any of us could have asked for. It’s just a great opportunity.”
Despite the unknowns, Porter said it didn’t take long for the team to gel and to understand they could be good again despite their experience and new starters across the back line — sophomore Natalie Adams and Lavigne share one side, with junior Natalie Chase on the other; sophomore Payton Vincent in the middle; and junior Maddie Donaldson in goal.
Porter pointed to an opening win over Champlain Valley, the No. 2 seed in D-I with an 8-1 record, as a good kind of wake-up call for the Eagles.
“We’re the only team that’s beat them. I think after that we knew we had something going on and that we needed to start thinking that we are the team to beat,” she said.
On Tuesday an early Woodstock goal served as the other kind of wake-up call. The Wasps are quick and skilled up front and caused problems with long runs at the Eagle defense. One paid off at 9:26 of the first quarter, when Lily Gibbons knocked home a Lilah McCollough feed. 
The Wasp lead lasted three minutes, or until Eagle sophomore forward Olivia Campbell netted the first of her three goals by relaying home sophomore center middie Maddie Gile’s drive on a penalty corner. Forty-six seconds later Campbell reverse-sticked Gile’s goalmouth feed inside the left post, and it was 2-1. 
The Eagles dominated the second quarter and added two Gile goals. The first came on a rebound of junior Molly Laurent’s shot, and the second came on a penalty corner. Laurent inserted from the left side, and Gile unloaded a long bomb inside the left post. The Eagles earned 15 corners to the Wasps’ five and converted on three of them. 
Campbell and Gile completed their hat tricks in the third quarter. Campbell’s came first as Laurent relayed a serve from junior Txuxa Konczal to Campbell, whose shot pinged in off the left post. Laurent picked up her third assist by feeding Gile for a goalmouth flick. 
In the fourth, Eagle freshman Sarah Heath scored twice, once from Campbell, and Gibbons converted a rebound for the Wasps. Donaldson made seven saves for the 6-1 Eagles, and Audrey Emery made 11 for the Wasps.
Eagle Coach Mary Stetson was happy with the Eagles’ execution on the penalty corners, efficient finishing, and ability to bounce back from an early deficit for the second straight game. But Burr & Burton, a 7-0 winner over No. 3 U-32 on Wednesday, has lost only to D-I top seed Bellows Falls and plays on a turf field. The Eagles might have to be sharp from the start in the final.
“We hear that they’re really strong and really talented,” Stetson said. “Hopefully we’ll have our best game.”
On the other hand, the Eagles have done pretty well in turf finals, and their style of play fits the surface.
“Our possession game, and hopefully our short passing game will transfer well,” Stetson said, adding, “We’re just happy to still be playing. We just need to seize that opportunity.”
And Porter said there’s another factor involved.
“They’re a tough team,” she said. “It’s just going to come down to who wants it the most.”

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