VUHS girls' soccer falls to Milton in semi-final

MILTON — The top-seeded Milton girls’ soccer team on Wednesday fought off pesky No. 12 Vergennes team, 4-1, and punch its ticket to a fourth consecutive Division II championship game.

Brooke Phillips put Milton (15-1-1) up early in the first half and Jenna Morrissey, Paige Johnson and Ashley Lauziere added second-half goals after the No. 12 Commodores (5-11-1) tied it up on midfielder Lily Haigis’ second-half free kick.

Milton faced No. 2 Hartford (13-3-1) in Saturday’s final.

VUHS had a fine season in its own right, knocking off No. 5 Springfield and No. 13 Missisquoi before running into Milton.

Haigis’ game-tying goal 15 minutes after halftime was the first playoff score Milton had allowed; the Yellowjackets didn’t yield a single shot in their first two postseason games.

But VUHS threatened early, and Milton goalkeeper Bethany Berger had to push through two Commodores to bat away a high cross. Haigis also created chances for the Commodores early with crosses from the right side.

At the other, VUHS middie Casey Shea made defensive stops to slow Milton’s early pressure, and defenders Tabby Danyow and Allison Straley led the effort to keep Milton leading scorer Samantha Rock off the books.

Shea left the game with a second-half ankle injury, a loss that helped make the final score deceptively one-sided. After a sloppy first half by its standards, Milton also found its form midway through the second half.

Milton took the lead 12 minutes into the game, when Brooke Phillips shot from the edge of the box over Commodore goalkeeper Caitlin Chaput (nine saves). But after that tally, the Yellowjackets struggled to get into a rhythm against the VUHS defense.

VUHS also struggled against the Yellowjacket back line. Tia Hunt broke into the box with the Commodores’ best chance of the half soon after Phillips’ goal, but Berger slid and picked the ball up off Hunt’s foot.

Midway through the first half, Chaput made the save of the game, a one-handed stop on a Rock 10-yard shot.

Hunt had another good look for Vergennes 10 minutes into the second half, but her sliding bid to knock a free kick home went just wide

Then Haigis took a free kick from five yards off the right edge of the Milton box and hit it under the crossbar to knot the score.

Six minutes later, Morrissey nailed a wind-aided, 30-yard bomb, and Milton had the lead for good.

Johnson also capitalized on the wind, and her long shot bounced home to make it 3-1. Five minutes later, Lauziere took a pass from Johnson and gave Milton an insurmountable lead.

VUHS coach Dwight Irish said he was proud of his team’s playoff run, which came after a fall full of adversity that ranged from injuries to vandalism to the Commodores’ field.

“Definitely well done,” Irish said. “We just kind of battled through injuries the whole season, and then when we finally got healthy they just kept battling. Once we got healthy we started playing well and we started getting that confidence back. It was a great run.”

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