ADDISON COUNTY — A tireless senior midfielder who helped lead the Middlebury Union High School team to the Division I state championship is the 2011 Addison Independent Field Hockey Player of the Year and leads a strong contingent of Tigers on the 2011 Independent Field Hockey All-Star Team.
Player of the Year Brandi Whittemore, a central midfielder, helped Coach Kelley Higgins’ Tigers to a 13-3-1 record and the program’s first title since 1998. Five other Tigers from Vermont’s best team also earned recognition here.
Coach Gary Hodder’s Otter Valley squad got the most out of its talent through hard work and chemistry in Hodder’s final season at the helm, posting a 9-6-1 mark. Two outstanding senior Otter midfielders made the Independent team.
Coach Mary Stetson’s Mount Abraham unit once again posted a misleading mark: 1-8-5 against D-I teams before winning one D-II playoff game and taking the No. 2 seed to penalty strokes before falling.
Selections to the Independent team are made based on observation, consultation with the coaches and statistics. Congratulations the following:
BRANDI WHITTEMORE, MUHS SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Showed terrific two-way play after being moved to the center of the field this fall ... Scored three goals and assisted four and had a greater impact on the Tiger offense with smart midfield passing to set up the team’s transition game ... Excellent defender who disrupted opponents at midfield, broke up many plays in the Tiger circle, and was a member of the effective unit that defended opponents’ penalty corners ... Showed leadership as a captain, particularly working well with younger teammates.
Higgins’ Quotes: “Brandi matured as a player and as a leader this season. I could not be happier for or prouder of her ... She moved from the left to the center of our midfield effortlessly ... She improved her defensive stickwork and was strong enough offensively that she became our fifth forward ... Her speed and conditioning allowed her to cover the field from end to end for 60 minutes. She was everywhere.”
TIFFANY DANYOW, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Former forward and midfielder whose successful transition to central defense was vital to the Tigers’ success ... Constantly stepped into passing lanes at midfield to stop opponents, and made good passes to move the Tigers back up the field ... Smart team defender and excellent one-on-one marker ... Served as the flyer on a penalty-corner unit that allowed just one goal in 32 attempts in the semifinal and final ... Scored the game-winning goal in the championship game, her first of the season.
Higgins’ Quotes: “She was the most-asked-about player at the Twin State tryout the day after the state championship ... It was her first time ever playing a defender and you would never have guessed it by watching the timing of her tackles, her instinct when to channel, her fearlessness when flying on defensive corners, and her speed with the ball ... She always asked good questions and constantly worked on her game.”
CHRISSY RITTER, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Probably the fastest player in the Metro Conference ... Sacrificed some scoring to help the Tigers’ midfield transition, and finished with six goals and a team-high five assists ... Showed a real knack for dodging opponents at full speed and for sending strong crosses in from the right side ... Scored the first goal in the Tigers’ key 2-1 regular-season win vs. South Burlington, and assisted the only goal in the title game ... Contributed to team chemistry as a tri-captain.
Higgins’ Quotes: “Coaches love speed and I am no exception. She could get to the ball first and hardly lost a step when carrying it ... Her vision of the field and where she needed to be improved with each game and that was exciting to watch ... Her work ethic kept the team focused ... She is a very driven athlete.”
ALIZA HAYES, OV SENIOR. Notes: Versatile three-year member of the OV varsity who settled into a full-time role at central midfield this fall and blossomed ... Figured in more scoring plays than any other Otter, with three goals and four assists, and helped defend opposing corners ... Had the ability to drive the ball long to trigger fast breaks or take on defenders one-on-one ... Contributed to good team chemistry with her leadership as a co-captain.
Hodder’s Quotes: “She’s a fantastic player ... I think midfield suits her more. But if we could have had two of her and put one up front, it would have been better ... When she runs with the ball and gets a little bit of speed up, she’s very difficult to stop ... She had some fantastic efforts ... She’s good defensively ... She took on the captaincy well, too.”
KELSEY POLJACIK, OV SENIOR. Notes: Senior three-year starter at midfield for OV who keyed the Otters defensively and offensively ... Scored twice and assisted three goals while playing a major role in OV’s long-strike transition attack with hard hits ... Smart defender with good stick skills to carry the ball out of trouble if necessary ... Provided strong leadership as a co-captain.
Hodder’s Quotes: “For such a quiet, mild-mannered young lady off the field she could be quite aggressive on it, and that was good, in a nice way, in a fair way ... She hit the ball hard, and that’s part of our games sometimes. She made good decisions, knew when to hit it and when to dribble with it ... She was fantastic back there (on defense) ... She was a great role model for the other players.”
MARIA PLOOF MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Flashed some of the finest stick skills in the state while playing determined defense and helping the Tigers move the ball up the field with smart passing ... Took many restarts after opponents’ fouls because of her ability to dribble around defenders as well as drive the ball ... Contributed two assists ... Smart defender at midfield and in the circle ... Tri-captain who helped the Tigers bond.
Higgins’ Quotes: “Her joyfulness and sense of humor set the tone at practice every day ... What a fierce, fierce competitor. She does not like to lose ... Her stickwork was impressive and she was invaluable in both the offensive and defensive circles ... She loves her teammates and they love her.”
MORGAN COTE, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Steady, physically strong senior defender who anchored Mount Abe’s back line against the state’s toughest foes and helped the Eagles post two playoff shutouts ... Read passing lanes well, marked individual opponents carefully, and had the field vision and stick skills to trigger the Eagles’ transition.
Stetson’s Quotes: “She had the ability to stop a fast break and a strong block tackle ... She always looked to make sure to stop the most dangerous situations before they became a lot of trouble ... She’s just as reliable as anything ... She was our post player on defensive corners and she had at least three or four saves when teams were already celebrating.”
MADI WOOD, MOUNT ABE SOPHOMORE. Notes: Quick, tireless right middie who made an immediate impact at the varsity level ... Put constant pressure on opponents with strong drives into the circle, many of which ultimately led to goals ... Skilled offensively and determined on defense, harassing opponents all over the field, including foes’ top players.
Stetson’s Quotes: She was poised. Nothing rattled her ... She did the little things right all the time ... Her repossession skills and her ability to follow the ball until it is clearly away from her are really strong ... There’s no substitute for hard work, and that’s that kid right there. She works real hard to be as good as she is.”
HANNAH QUINN, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Smart three-year varsity forward who rarely came off the field ... Scored seven times, including game-winner vs. Rutland in D-I semi and twice in the Tigers’ quarterfinal win; also contributed two assists ... Showed improved stickwork that helped the Tigers move the ball into scoring position, and finished a high percentage of her scoring chances.
Higgins’ Quotes: “She has gotten stronger and stronger each season ... She made things happen, both in the offensive circle, and when she was causing turnovers ... She made herself available for passing options for her teammates at all times ... She fought hard and built up her endurance so that I could leave her on the field as long as I needed.”
KAYLA WEISS, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Left wing who fulfilled her role well in that finishing position for MUHS ... Led local scorers with eight goals, and added four assists ... Scored the game-winner vs. South Burlington in the regular season ... Both goals in the Tigers’ 2-1 win at Rutland in the D-I semi came on rebounds of her shots.
Higgins’ Quotes: “Kayla really strived to improve her game this year ... She wanted to be successful at the left wing position and worked tirelessly on tipping in ... She’s a good passer and played a role in some very exciting to watch give-and-goes up the field ... She’s a fun and funny teammate.”
LIZZIE HUIZENGA, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Quick and athletic goalie who faced many shots in the challenging Metro Conference and stopped them at an 85 percent rate ... Many scores against her came on second and third rebounds ... Showed great mobility in ranging out of the cage and clearing the ball with purpose and terrific reflexes.
Stetson’s Quotes: “She’s quick. It’s tough to beat her side to side ... She recovers quickly. She’ stops the shots in the air and on the ground ... As the season went on her confidence and her ability to direct traffic in front of the net (improved) ... A lot of saves she made were clears that helped us go the other way ... It’s exciting to have her come back next year.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.