Eagles romp, extend lead in Division II
BRISTOL — It might be only a pandemic-shortened, five-game regular season, but so far the Mount Abraham Union High School field hockey team is making the best of it.
On Tuesday the defending Division II champion Eagles moved to 4-0 with a 5-0 thumping of visiting Burlington (1-4).
After junior forwards Txuxa Konczal and Molly Laurent combined for a sensational early goal, junior goalie Maddie Donaldson and the defense of sophomores Natalie Adams (filling in for ailing senior starter Sarah Lavigne) and Payton Vincent and junior Natalie Chase staved off Burlington’s best surge of the game.
In one sequence midway through the first period Donaldson, like the rest of the defense a first-year starter, made two point-blank saves on a Seahorse penalty corner.
The Eagles then dominated the second and third quarters and scored twice in each. Critically, the midfield of senior Liz Porter and sophomore Maddie Gile in the middle, junior Abby Reen on the right, and the tag team of junior Carly Rougier and freshman Sarah Heath on the left controlled play and territory.
“They carried play well,” said Coach Mary Stetson. “They work well with their backs that are behind them. They have a really good feel for one another.”
And the Eagles cashed in on their chances — they have outscored their foes, 13-2, and shut out three straight opponents.
The first goal might have been the best. Konczal and Laurent passed the ball back and forth several times as they moved through the Seahorse circle, treating defenders like drill cones. The last pass went across the crease from Laurent to Konczal on the left side, and Konczal banged it in from point-blank with 1:43 gone.
Laurent made it 2-0 three minutes into the second period on a corner. The insert went to Reen, and she drove to ball to Laurent at the left post for the tap-in.
At 5:10 Gile added to the lead. Reen broke up a clear on the right side and fed Gile near the stroke line. Gile rapped the ball into the left side.
At 7:41 of the third Laurent netted her second on a nice feed from Rougier. Rougier scored herself at 4:57. Konczal started the play with one of her many strong runs down the right side. She fed sophomore forward Olivia Campbell out front. Campbell’s shot hit the left post, but she chased the ball down and set up Rougier between the stroke line and the circle for a low, hard shot.
For the fourth quarter Stetson emptied her bench. Freshman goalie Greta Jennison entered and made two saves. Donaldson finished with three, and BHS goalie Elise Holway stopped six shots.
What most pleases Stetson about this season is the teamwork her Eagles are showing. The Seahorses have talent, and had not been shut out this season until Tuesday. But their parts simply did not mesh as well as did Mount Abe’s.
“It’s the ability of everyone to work well as a unit that makes the strength of the team,” Stetson said.
That cohesion is not an accident, she said.
“Everyone works really hard and works 100 percent the best effort they got. And by challenging each other every day in practice they’re getting better. And I think they want to be better,” Stetson said.
Of course, after just one more game, at Rice on Thursday, the D-II playoffs loom next week. Stetson said with such a small sample size in scheduling the postseason could be unpredictable.
“I don’t think your record or your seed is going to be any indicator,” Stetson said.
That said, she acknowledge the Eagles’ schedule, as usual has been tough.
“That will help us. But I don’t think you can take anyone for granted. It will be how sharp we can get ourselves,” she said.
Regardless, she will be proud of how the Eagles handled themselves given all the uncertainty and stress surrounding this season and their lives.
“They’re salvaging a season that at one point we weren’t even sure we were going to play,” she said. “I think they’ve really seized the opportunity and done a great job with it. It’s been hard to keep a focus. Their life has been really different.”