BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School field hockey team bounced back from a lackluster loss at Mount Mansfield this past weekend to earn a positive result on Tuesday, a 0-0 tie with visiting Essex.
Critically, said Coach Mary Stetson, after allowing five goals to the Cougars last Friday, the Mount Abe defense buckled down on Tuesday in front of sophomore goalie Lizzie Huizenga (seven saves).
Stetson said the Eagle backs — senior Aliza Kamman in the middle and senior Bailey Cote and junior Morgan Cote on the flanks — and midfielders — notably senior Courtney Jipner — covered the Hornet attackers effectively in the circle, even when Essex carried play in the first half and overtime.
“They did a great job. They really answered the bell,” said Stetson, whose team stands at 1-5-1 heading into a Thursday game at Champlain Valley. “We were able to mark better.”
Huizenga, who made two huge saves in the 10-minute OT, also roamed to break up a number of Hornet scoring chances.
“Lizzie did a great job ... I don’t think they were used to seeing such an active goalie,” Stetson said.
The first half did not look promising, however. Essex (3-2-1) controlled play by winning the battles at midfield; outshot the Eagles, 4-0; and earned a 3-1 edge in penalty corners. About six minutes in, officials waved off an Essex goal for an obstruction foul.
Jipner, Kamman and Nicky Shandrow made key defensive plays for the Eagles in the half, while Huizenga came out to cut off the angle and deny a Lindsay Paquette shot. At the other end, hard-working Eagle wing Sara Sayles created a couple of dangerous rushes down the left side, Shandrow sent one dangerous ball into the circle, and Hornet defender Janelle Puleo snuffed out the only Eagle corner.
Momentum shifted dramatically in the second half. Stetson said the Eagles probably realized they were still in the game even though they had not played their best, and played with more confidence. In the second half, they outshot the Hornets, 5-1.
The Eagles started coming on strong after Saddie Roy nearly deflected in a strong Megan Rockwell hit from the right side in the ninth minute. Two minutes later, the Hornet defense blocked a Roy shot on a penalty corner, and soon after that the Hornets also blocked a MacKenzie LeBeau bid on another feed from Rockwell, a senior middie who enjoyed a strong half.
In the 16th minute, the Eagles earned a penalty corner, and Hornet goalie Lauren Gray had to flash her right pad to stop a Rockwell shot from a dozen feet out. Soon after that, another Rockwell bid trickled wide right.
Huizenga then made her only save of the half, a stop on Taylor Barry. Jipner and Kamman broke up several plays in the half, and Bailey Cote broke up the last Essex threat as time expired.
Before then, the Eagles kept coming. Sayles set up a shot by middie Lydia Stearns, but Gray knocked it aside. On a penalty corner, Gray held her ground on the left post and denied Sarah Heffernan with help from a defender.
“I really think we stepped it up,” Stetson said. “We did get some great scoring opportunities late in the game.”
In OT, the pendulum swung the other way again. Huizenga twice came out to break up plays, Kamman came up big twice defensively, and Huizenga twice stopped Taylor Hallowell bids, one as time expired.
In all, Stetson saw the game as a step forward for the Eagles.
“I definitely think this is something we can build on,” she said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.