MIDDLEBURY — The No. 8 Middlebury Union High School field hockey team dominated visiting No. 9 Brattleboro in a first-round Division I playoff game on Wednesday and claimed a 2-0 win.
The 6-6-3 Tigers out-shot the 6-8-1 Colonels, 15-2, and scored a goal in each half to earn a shot at undefeated top-seed Champlain Valley (14-0) in the quarterfinal round. CVU will host that game at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. The Tigers lost twice to the defending champion Redhawks this fall, 2-0 at CVU, and 2-1 in overtime at home on Oct. 10.
But tri-captain and four-year varsity player Shelby Laframboise said the Tigers believe they are better than their record — they have outshot all their foes except CVU — and can compete with and defeat the Redhawks.
The key will be believing it, she said.
“When we play CVU, at least at CVU, we get really intimidated by them,” Laframboise said. “If we think about how good we are and how good they are, we’re a better team than they are. We can definitely beat them. We went into overtime the last time we played them, and we’re improving, and we can improve even more.”
Before the Tigers could focus on CVU, they first had to deal with the Colonels, who despite their comparable record had played a much softer schedule. MUHS played 12 D-I games, while Brattleboro had gone played just six D-I games and lost them all.
After a couple early Colonel rushes, the Tigers began to apply pressure and earned three penalty corners in the first 11 minutes. The work of midfielders Kayla Quesnel-Cousino, Tiffany Audet and Ashley Bishop was key in keeping the ball in the Colonels’ end, and their all-star goalie Kori Huffman (13 saves) soon was busy: She came out to stop Katie Ritter on an early breakaway, and also denied Laframboise on a Chrissy Ritter setup at the 20-minute mark.
The Tigers took the lead at 17:35. Laframboise controlled deep on the right side and found senior defender Kaitlyn Kirkaldy stepping into the attack. Kirkaldy relayed the ball to senior forward Kali Trautwein about 15 feet out from the left post, and Trautwein one-timed the ball into the corner.
Huffman preserved the one-goal deficit with a fine save on a Chrissy Ritter deflection of an Audet free hit, and then the Colonels finally generated some offense, earning two corners in the final 10 minutes. But Kirkaldy broke up one, she and Audet snuffed out the other, and it was 1-0 at the half.
Kirkaldy blocked a close-range bid by Emily Hale and caught Kelsey Kinsman from behind on a breakaway attempt as the Colonels tried to equalize early in the second half, while Audet cleared another Colonel corner.
Then the Tigers took full control and went ahead, 2-0, at 21:56. Audet drove a free hit into the circle, and Chrissy Ritter deflected it diagonally toward the right post. Katie Ritter, the right wing, flashed in and tipped the ball home.
From then on, the Colonels only rarely threatened. Tiger defenders Alex Sears and Nina Edson each made plays to break up rushes, and goalie Kayla Whittemore finished with just two saves for the shutout.
At the other end, Trautwein, both Ritters, and Quesnel-Cousino all created chances, and Huffman stopped Laframboise twice as the half wore on.
Ultimately, the Tiger seniors walked off Jette Field after their last home game with a victory in the books.
“We won,” Laframboise said. “So it feels really good.”