The story about the Bellows Falls field hockey team is one for the ages. In three consecutive years, the Terriers won titles in three different divisions. Taking the tale a step further, they have captured four titles in a row. They were top dog in Division III in the falls of 2015 and 2016, won the prize in Division II last autumn, and now came away with the Division I championship last Saturday.
Coach Bethany Coursen has believed in her charges since they arrived at titles door. The Purple and White have rarely been challenged in the past four years. The majority of the title winners became seniors this fall and thus the decision to move to Division I. Coursen decided it was definitely time at the end of last season, but the school had to petition to move up in the middle of a two-year cycle. The committee used common sense and said yes. Obviously, the rest is history.
Coursen felt her team would be allowed to make the jump because “We had a great argument that we belonged there.” There were many skeptics of their move and especially of their number one seed. Coursen had hoped to add some tougher competition to the regular season schedule but found it impossible due to two-year scheduling commitments that had been made throughout the state. There were some other schools interested, but you cannot leave teams without games, thus there ended up being no takers. Thus, Bellows Falls played the same schedule as the year before and many skeptics picked away at what they felt was a less than spectacular undefeated schedule.
Even some well-informed persons wondered if the lack of close competition would do this team in at the end. The Terriers never trailed in a big game and people asked out loud how would they react if in the semi-finals or the finals against Rice or South Burlington the competition scored first? Coursen did the best to prepare her team as she could and challenged the team with preseason scrimmages against the best competition she could find. They didn’t allow Rice or South Burlington to score first, so no one will never know what would have happened if they had trailed.
What everyone does know is Bellows Falls defeated both Rice (3-1) and South Burlington (2-0) by two goals and paraded their way right into Bellows Falls. A great side story has South Burlington believing in themselves but not in the Terriers. One conversation following the title game had a member of the Rebel adult bench contingent saying that no matter how hard they tried, the coaches could not get the South Burlington team to comprehend how good this Bellows Falls team was.
In some ways, this is surprising because the two teams scrimmaged each of the past two years and Bellow Falls held their own. I guess when your school has won three consecutive Division I titles and so many people are saying about Bellows Falls, “Look who they have played and they don’t belong,” it’s easy to buy the hype. When I told Bethany Coursen this, at first she found it hard to believe, and then she remembered how in a discussion with her coaches, “We wondered why they seemed so confident and were almost like less than serious at times during both warm-ups and halftime. Maybe that’s the way it was.”
I would certainly believe when you have reached halftime in a Vermont Division I title game and you are involved in a scoreless tie, if you don’t get it by then, you are not going to get it. Whatever, whether the Rebels believed in the Terriers or not, doesn’t really matter. This group of Terriers, which is senior-dominated, believed fully in themselves for all four years and did nothing but win. They should stand tall with a well-earned Division I state crown. It seems to fit perfectly.
Bellows Falls broke the tie with 14 minutes left in the game when freshman Maya Waryas dribbled the ball in transition and found the net. Four minutes later, Madison Streeter took a pass from Abbe Cravinho and the two goals were all that would be scored on this day. Emma Lober was outstanding in net and with her defensive mates help, Bellows Falls shutout the team with the crown in their possession but only until the final horn sounded.
Bellows Falls football
Bellows Falls football won’t be putting another trophy in the case back home, but the 2018 team possibly finished just where their talent says they should have. “I’m certainly not disappointed with a 7-3 record. This was a good year for this team. There were times they didn’t show up to play the way I would like, but overall they had a good season,” is the way Coach Bob Lockerby summed up his team’s season.
Lockerby told the press a couple of times this fall something like, “I don’t know who that team in purple was. They didn’t come to play today.” He says, “The same thing happened Saturday. We really didn’t play very well.”
No, they didn’t but…
There is likely always going to be some questionable feelings about this Bellows Falls-Fair Haven semi-final play-off game. The game was moved from Fair Haven Friday night to the turf at Rutland Saturday. Bad field conditions were the reason for the switch.
Before going on, I believe Lockerby is correct in saluting his team for a 7-3 season. I believe the Terriers were the third best team in Division II. This team should be proud, most of all, for the tremendous game they played in defeat at Hadley Field when the Slaters stole a 17-16 decision in the final seconds. Lockerby was a proud coach for how his 11 had carried out the game plan to near perfection in that contest. They had kept a strong team in check and came oh so close to winning the game.
Lockerby told me a week ago, “For us to win this game, we will have to limit the times they have the ball. We will have to play very well to beat them.”
Then Lockerby must have had a smile on his face. The weatherman came up with a game plan for Friday night, which could help Bellows Falls compete. The Terriers have always liked a few yards and a cloud of dust, but heavy rain and a quagmire of a field would please them just fine on this night. Slater quarterback Cam Collutti would certainly be handicapped by the predicted conditions. Then the rains came. Then a phone call came Friday morning. The field is unplayable. They need to move the game to Rutland Saturday night. The tide had changed. Any possible Bellows Falls field condition advantage was gone.
Then some things didn’t line up. There were fans who never received the word that the game had been postponed. Supporters from both Fair Haven and Bellows Falls arrived at the field to find no game, but there was more.
Right there on the unplayable field, Fair Haven was practicing under the lights. Had the conditions changed? If they had, why hadn’t Bellows Falls received a call and told to come on over? Saturday night in Rutland, there were some angry fans from both sides. There were some Fair Haven supporters who wanted the game played in their own backyard. Meanwhile, there were some Bellows Falls followers who rationalized their team would have had a better chance on a grass field.
I put in a call to Fair Haven Athletic Director Ali Jones in hopes of her shedding some more light on to the situation. She had not returned the call when we went to press. I spoke to people from Fair Haven who wondered as much as people in BF as to why the site had to be changed.
The decision was made Friday morning. There definitely was standing water on the field at that time. At least some Fair Haven players were very surprised to be practicing on the field Friday night and felt at that time it was playable. On the other hand, there is a history of the Fair Haven Field not holding water well and games having to be moved to other venues.
Again, I think Fair Haven is the better football team in this fall of 2018. The game at Bellows Falls could have seen a Terrier win. There is doubt in my mind if Bellows Falls could have played as well again.
To be the only game not played at its scheduled site last weekend and to have only one of the two teams scheduled to play there at said time of scheduled contest allowed to go on the field, took any advantage Bellows Falls might have been granted by the weatherman and eliminated it. Somehow, this doesn’t seem right.
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