Mount Abe, MUHS field hockey work out a tie
MIDDLEBURY — After momentum swings, remarkable saves and fine plays at both ends by both teams, the final Mount Abraham shot of Thursday’s field hockey game at Middlebury Union High School trickled just wide with no time left on the clock.
The final horn had already sounded, and the defending Division II champion Eagles had one last chance on a penalty corner to break a tie in the overtime they had dominated.
But two Eagles out front couldn’t quite square up a shot, the ball rolled harmlessly past the left post, and the scoreboard read 1-1.
Although the Eagles earned a slight edge in territory as well as their 18-6 advantage in penalty corners, including 7-0 in overtime, the Tigers held their own and created plenty of chances.
Eagle senior goalie Kira Murray made six saves, one fewer than Tiger senior Ileigh Aube in the Tiger cage, but Murray twice robbed Tiger senior Lexi Bartlett, once on a breakaway early in the second half with the game still scoreless, a play that arguably changed the complexion of the game.
Afterward both coaches praised the other team.
“Credit to Middlebury. We knew they were going to be good,” said longtime Eagle Coach Mary Stetson.
Stetson said she believed her 1-0-1 Eagles gelled in the second half, even though they surrendered a late goal.
“I thought our second half was much stronger than our first half,” she said. “They (the Tigers) carried play for the final 15 minutes of the first half. We did well to go into the half 0-0. And then I think we came out and played our game. Our spacing was better. Our passes and transition game was a lot better.”
Coach Chelsey Giuliani’s MUHS team moved to 1-1-1. The win and a tie is already a step forward over the past two regular seasons, as is the Tigers’ quality of play.
“We played a really good game, and I also think Mount Abe is a really good team,” Giuliani said. “So that feels for us very much like a victory, to hang with a team that we very much respect.”
Giuliani wished the Tigers had capitalized during a first half in which they earned a 5-4 edge in penalty corners and forced Murray to make four of her six saves, compared to one for Aube.
But Giuliani believes it is only a matter of time before the chances become goals.
“I’m really proud of how we looked in the circle. The positioning looked on point,” she said. “If we continue to do that we’re knocking on anyone’s door.”
The Eagles controlled the first few minutes, and Tiger junior center back Lydia Deppman disrupted a threat, a common event. The Tigers then came alive, forcing a penalty corner about five minutes in on which Murray denied a high shot from senior forward Phoebe Smith.
The teams battled evenly for the next 10 minutes, and then Tigers midfielders Kaitlyn McNamara, Alison Seaton and Lydia Alberts kept the ball rolling toward the Eagle end, wings Maeve Hammel and Clara Wolff served, and Bartlett and Smith buzzed the cage.
With nine minutes to go Bartlett broke loose in the circle and drilled a reverse sweep, only to see Murray bat away a waist-high drive.
“She had some great saves,” Giuliani said.
The Tigers couldn’t get to a rebound of another Murray save on Bartlett, and Murray blocked another high Bartlett bid on a corner.
The Eagles countered late, but dangerous wing Txuxa Konczal shot just wide on a feed from middie Abby Reen.
The first minute of the second half brought the play of the game. Bartlett stickhandled past two Eagles in the circle and in alone on Murray. Bartlett then moved to pull the ball around Murray, encumbered by her goalie pads. But Murray dove and sticked the ball cleanly away from the talented Tiger, denying even a shot on goal.
“Give her credit for being fearless and coming out,” Stetson said.
Soon Reen and Eagle center middie Maddie Gile forced the first of four straight corners. On the fourth Aube denied point-blank bids by middies Elizabeth Porter and Sydney Perlee.
But immediately afterward Konczal attacked down the right side. She served from just inside the circle to forward Molly Laurent off the right post, and Laurent fired home to break the ice.
Soon afterward Murray ranged out to break up Bartlett, and the Eagles cleared the ball from a scramble that followed. The veteran Eagle defense of Maizy Shepard in the middle and Abby Hoff and Camille Lyons on the flanks did not allow the Tigers a chance again until the late going.
Then the Eagle middies took over, and the Tigers had to hang on.
“The midfield started to own the ball more,” Stetson said.
At one point Gile fed Konczal for an apparent goal, but officials waved it off due to a Tiger infraction before the shot. Aube also denied forward Emma Fay and Porter again.
The Tigers countered with 1:03 to go. Smith controlled near the stroke line and fired to the left post, where Wolff tapped it home to tie the game.
After Gile broke up an early Tiger rush, the Eagles dominated the ultimately scoreless overtime. Before the last-gasp penalty corner Aube kicked aside a Konczal bid, Laurent and Fay threatened, and Deppman and Seaton made key defensive plays.
Both coaches found positives. Stetson said she believes the Eagles will be fine once the new lineup settles in.
“I think we’re getting there. We’ve got a lot of room for growth … We can be stronger to the ball and follow play more,” Stetson said. “Everybody will adjust. We don’t know each other well yet. When learn to play off each other, we’ll do well.”
Giuliani said the result showed her team’s growth.
“Excellent hockey. I’m happy to be participating in that,” she said. “Usually we have a talk afterwards where we talk about the main things we want to focus on in the next day’s practice. And today I really just wanted them to go celebrate with their parents because it’s been a couple years since we’ve been able to do that at home. So they deserve it.”