MIDDLEBURY — Despite having the better of the play and taking three one-goal leads, the Middlebury Union High School field hockey team on Saturday settled for a 3-3 tie with visiting Champlain Valley.
The Redhawks (4-1-1) got a tying goal with 1:53 to go that came against the run of play, and they were the happier team at the end of overtime than the 3-2-1 Tigers.
Tiger senior captain Sara Higgins, who scored the game’s first goal and was denied by a defensive save in overtime, said the Tigers have improved their offensive teamwork — and look forward to the rematch with the Redhawks.
“We’ve been trying to work on communication, and I think we definitely stepped that up today. It’s definitely frustrating, but we play them again, and we plan to get them next time,” Higgins said.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead at 17:58 of the first half when Higgins tipped a feed from senior right wing Katie Ritter inside the left post. By then, Ritter had already had an apparent goal called back as a high hit.
CVU equalized on a penalty corner at 13:42, when Louse Gibbs deflected a shot from the top of the circle past Tiger senior goalie Anjelica Swinhart. Two minutes later, Swinhart did well to deny dangerous CVU right wing Molly Burke.
The pendulum then swung back to the Tigers, whose territorial advantage can be seen in their 12-7 edge in penalty corners. At 9:37, junior midfielder Brandi Whittemore picked off a Redhawk clearing attempt on the left side and drove the ball to junior Chrissy Ritter about six yards out from goal. Ritter used a reverse-stick move to flick the ball inside the right post.
Late in the first half, CVU pressed again, and senior middie Tiffany Audet and junior middie Maria Ploof made defensive plays to preserve the lead.
In the second half, the Redhawks earned two early penalty corners and converted the second. They pinged a shot off the right post, and Sarah Reed rapped home the rebound at 20:08.
The Tigers regained control, with Chrissy Ritter becoming a constant threat stickhandling through the CVU end. CVU goalie Sami Kassel made a big save on Higgins on a penalty corner in the 16th minute, but at 12:29 Chrissy Ritter again found room and sent the ball into the circle and Hannah Quinn tipped it home to give MUHS the 3-2 lead.
The Tigers controlled and earned two more penalty corners, but CVU’s Burke led a counterattack, beat the Tiger defense down the right side and centered for Reed, who found the near corner at 1:53.
The Tigers gained two more corners, but Kassel saved a Katie Ritter shot before regulation ended.
CVU threatened early in the 10-minute overtime. Swinhart made a save on Reed and senior Paige Cummings and Ploof made defensive plays.
At the other end, Higgins shot just wide on a Chrissy Ritter feed, and Kassel denied Katie Ritter again. Then came a wild final sequence. The Tigers earned a corner as time expired, and were allowed to keep playing as long as they could keep the ball in the CVU circle.
Higgins shot, but a defender knocked it off the goal line. Whittemore collared the rebound, but Kassel kicked it away. The officials awarded the Tigers another corner, but the pass in took two bad hops and bounced out of the circle as CVU celebrated and the Tigers fumed.
Still, they are above .500, could easily have won two more games, and have shown plenty of firepower despite losing five starters, three of whom played for Vermont in the Twin-State game.
“People were worried because we lost a lot of people from last year,” Higgins said. “But I think people fell into position, and we’re playing really well together.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.