MUHS field hockey battles Cougars
MIDDLEBURY — Just looking at the score, one might think Tuesday’s game was just another disappointing outing in a 1-8-1 season for the Middlebury Union High School field hockey team.
But a look under the hood of a 5-1 loss to visiting Mount Mansfield, a competent Division I team that improved to 4-8, tells a somewhat different story.
For sure, the game did not start well. The D-II Tigers were outplayed in the first half, particularly during a first quarter in which the Cougars were typically first to the ball, linked up well without too much resistance, and took a 3-0 lead.
But as the game wore on the momentum slowly changed. By its end, the Tigers had outshot the Cougars, 15-11; forced Cougar goalie Bea Dirkmaat to make 11 saves; and outplayed their visitors in the entire second half.
First-year Coach MaKayla Broughton, whose team came to this contest after two one-goal losses and a decent effort against undefeated South Burlington in its past three games, called Tuesday’s in-game turnaround a step forward for her young team.
“Having four goals scored on us in the first half and to come out with such speed, for us, yes that’s not winning the whole game, but that’s a huge win for us,” Broughton said. “To have that mentality, and to go get the ball, it was fantastic.”
As well as showing more grit, the Tigers improved their execution in moving the ball and in showing better positional discipline in preventing the Cougars from advancing out of their own end.
“We’ve been calling it the Ziplock press, a nice tight press, and not a store-brand press, where things leak out. We’ve really been working on our positions on that,” Broughton said. “Kenyon Connors, our center forward, was really instrumental in communicating that in the second half.”
There was no denying the Cougars early on, however. In the fourth minute they earned a penalty corner, and goalie Michaela Charbonneau did well to deny MMU’s Brianna Brownell’s initial bid.
But then the Tigers struggled to move the ball out of their own end, and the Cougars capitalized at 10:36, when Liza Mahoney poked in a loose ball in a scramble.
The Cougars forced another penalty corner a little less than three minutes later, and at 7:43 Aly Dorman whacked the ball home from just inside the circle after Marissa Groleau relayed the insert to her.
The Tigers got their only shot of the quarter off at 7:15, a bid from sophomore Quincy Doria after a rush down the left side. MMU made it 3-0 at 2:50 when Tes Simpson poked home her own rebound. The Tigers had one more good chance, but sophomore Navah Glikman’s strong serve from the right rolled just out of the reach of open sophomore Hex Bingham.
MMU made it 4-0 in the second period on Mahoney’s second goal, assisted by Brownell. The Tigers began to show life, and Dirkmaat had to make back-to-back saves on junior defender Meredith Cameron and sophomore Ivy Gates on an early penalty corner. Not long afterward Doria and sophomore Lia Calzini teamed up on a threatening rush, and later Brownell did well to deny a Doria rush. At the other end Charbonneau stoned Brownell from the doorstep.
Then the switch flicked on for the Tigers after the break. Suddenly they were first to the ball. Passes sprung Doria and Glikman loose down the wings. The Cougars began to find it harder to advance the ball.
On an early third-period penalty corner Dirkmaat denied both Cameron and center mid Lila Cook Yoder, both of whom were also playing major roles in disrupting the Cougars. Just afterward Dirkmaat stopped Doria a the left post.
The pressure paid off a 13:29 With a number of Tigers swarming the MMU circle, sophomore middie Maya Breckenridge pushed the ball toward the cage. Doria rapped it home near the left post, and it was 4-1.
MMU made it 5-1 at 6:19 of the fourth. Charbonneau made back-to-back saves on Ollie Turner, her fourth and fifth of the game, but Simpson tucked the second rebound into the right corner.
The Tigers kept plugging, and Connors put two shots on goal, one saved by Dirkmaat, the second illegally by a defender. That stop resulted in a penalty stroke, but Dirkmaat made her 11th and final save at 1:52 to preserve the 5-1 final.
Broughton summed up.
“When we came out in the second half we had so much energy. It was great,” she said, adding, “We’re seeing the confidence build up.”
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