The Bellows Falls Terriers field hockey team is the Vermont Division I state champion. They defeated and shut out South Burlington 2-0 at the University of Vermont to keep their 57-game winning streak and four consecutive state title streak alive. South Burlington had three-peated in Division I, but the Terriers moved up and were the best of the best in the fall of 2018.
Purple and White coach Bethany Coursen told me once upon a time, “One of the reasons we moved up was to make the most of what we were given,” and this bunch of sticksters did just that.
Their accomplishment over the past four seasons is, at the very least, in the discussion with any athletic accomplishment in Bellows Falls history. There have been great teams in a number of sports, but the list is limited when one throws in the 57 straight wins and the four straight titles, including one at the highest level.
Despite all the success many of these athletes have had and some scrimmages during the past two falls versus tough competition, South Burlington in particular, a Division I tournament berth is truly uncharted waters. Jumping into this type of pool was a real challenge, and it brought some anxiety with it including uneasiness in the picking of the four captains to lead this successful, confident team.
Abbe Cravinho reflected, “When Division I was offered to us, I was a little bit scared. No, not a little bit, I was a lot scared.”
Madison Streeter admits she was actually uptight when she found out. She related, “I was actually a little bit mad, just because I knew it was such a big jump. We are a very small school. We have played great field hockey for years but I thought Bethany might have misjudged how good we really were. Now, I realized we are that team.”
The word Molly Kelly used was “frustrated. At first, I thought this was a set-up for us to fail. I had trouble understanding because this was my senior year and I was nervous we wouldn’t be able to win. Then I realized we were winning all our games by four to six goals and we weren’t really finding competition. In the end, knowing we had to be ready for the Division I tournament really pushed us.”
The fourth captain, Megan Banik, had the least playing experience of the group, but she had been an astute observer all along the way. She offered, “I was nervous at first and definitely didn’t know what to expect. I questioned our chances. It was a big change, but in the end it was definitely worth it and I’m glad it happened.”
The team had felt that when push came to shove, South Burlington would be the big prize if they could advance that far. Such a match up would pit two three-peat teams in one of the most anticipated field hockey games in the sports Vermont annals and as all know now, the dream meeting came to be.
Bellows Falls had to defeat a strong Rice team to reach the finals. Every captain was in agreement with a little tidbit related to that encounter. In many ways, the stakes were higher in the semi-final contest. Cravinho remembered, “I was more nervous in the Rice game than I was for the state game. That’s because if you beat the semi-final team you face, at least, you are in the finals.”
Each captain went on to support Crainho’s words, agreeing that not reaching the final was not an option.
Four seasons. Four state titles. Many of the seniors were part of each of those teams. Every senior had been in a program that saw nothing except title celebrations at the conclusion of every season. Coursen had introduced most of these athletes to the sport in the early grades of school through her youth program, which utilizes varsity players to coach the youngsters. Athletes from years gone by had developed the program by setting the foundation on the field from Coursen’s early teams to coaching the up-and-coming eventual state champions. Coursen took time to reflect on this year’s team, which went undefeated and then disposed of Champlain Valley Union, Rice, and South Burlington, on the way to the title.
Here are her words on each of her athletes.
Abbe Cravinho has a second gear that she kicks in when needed. She has a drive and desire to do her best and makes everyone around her better. She scored 80 goals in her four years and possibly had as many assists.
Molly Kelly was a great passer and worked very hard all season to recover from her injury. She tallied 60 goals in her four years and showed constant dedication to her team and sport.
Madison Streeter controlled the ball movement in the middle of the field and worked very hard to keep us on the offensive all the time. She scored 30 goals over her career and was a key part to our corner plays.
Megan Banik stepped up this season and played as a forward or a link – whichever spot the team needed her most. She did an amazing job at whatever spot she was in. She gave 110 percent all the time. She always wanted to know what she could do to be better.
Sophie Hyslop worked very hard at being in the right spot at the right time. She constantly worked on getting her stick down to get that beautiful deflection in the goal. She scored some beautiful goals this season.
Maya Waryas, a freshman, scored 13 goals this season and three of them were game winners in each of our Division I play-off games. Maya worked very hard, listened, watched, and pushed herself to get better and better with each practice. She had a great first season.
Abby Dearborn worked very hard. She has great speed and when she hopped in on the forward line, she was working hard all the time. She continued to do well when she moved back to link. She has great timing and positioning.
Michelle Marchica was a hard worker with her fellow links. She did a good job backing up the forwards and moving the ball around the field away from the other team.
Emily Harris worked very hard all season. She passed well and continued to get better on her timing on post. She displayed lots of hustle and never gave up.
Meagan Kelly worked well with her other links and was very strong at carrying the ball up the field and passing to her forwards or switching spots with the defense so that the defense could go up the field, and she dropped back to cover for them.
Alice Salter-Roy had a skill of being able to side dribble past her opponents and pass off the ball with ease. She was part of the four links that all worked so well together. It was a joy to watch.
Madi Joy centered the wall of our defense. She had some pretty amazing block tackles to stop the offense in their tracks to break up a lot of breakaways.
Brooke Bennett did a great job being a part of attacking the offense while she was on defense. She also did a great job forcing the other team to do something with the ball. She gave us tons of hustle, never gave up, and pushed herself all the time.
Taylor Goodell would actually go across the field and get the ball. Taylor had good speed and was able to recover back to help the goalie and had solid stick work behind the goalie on the goal line, making killer saves when they counted the most.
Halle Dickerson was all over the defensive end of the field. She had numerous saves in the goal and was able to dodge through the opponent to get the ball up to her offense so they could continue up the field. Her stick skills are incredible.
Emma Lober had 54 shutouts and was Player of the Week for the Burlington Free Press. She showed when challenged that she had the confidence to do the job and to do it very well. She attacked the ball and defended her cage like she had done it all season long.
Brigid Hodsden had a great season balancing two sports. She returned to field hockey and worked very hard, had great side movement, and was very aggressive going after the ball. Her work ethic and drive pushed Emma to work harder as well.
Three of those players, Cravinho, Streeter, and Kelly have been chosen to play in the Twin State Game representing Vermont versus New Hampshire next summer. Joy has also been chosen as an alternate. Coursen has been chosen as the head coach of the Vermont team.
In describing Lober’s performance, Coursen mentioned, “She attacked the ball and defended the cage like she had done it all season long.”
You see, she had only basically done it in practice all season long. Bellows Falls dominated play so strongly that Lober had few chances in net. The critics had said that if Bellows Falls fell behind, they were in trouble because they had never been challenged and could end up panicking. The same critics said Lober couldn’t possibly be up to the task of an onslaught because she had never seen one.
The results of the tournament would prove one thing. Lober could withstand the challenge. Banik said it best when she told me, “That game was what she worked for all year. We knew she was capable to have a strong game because of what she had done in practice. That was the only experience she really had for tough shots like that. Those shots came from the state champions.”
In addition, just like happened in practice sometimes, defenders did their jobs too. Both Dickerson and Goodell cleared shots in the title contest that could have ended up in the goal. After all, it is a team game.
For the falling behind part, well, we will never know. The Bellows Falls Terriers didn’t let that happen. They didn’t ever trail. All everyone does know is they are state champions.
Then there were a few more intangibles that played as inspiration for the small little school that could. Coursen happened to mention to her charges that there were people saying, “They were overrated,” “That they were only seeded first because they had a soft schedule,” and then “The title would be handed out to a team closer to Route 89 than to Route 91.”
These whispers and some other thoughts were on the players’ minds as well.
Cravinho: “We have a will to win.”
Streeter: “We do a lot of conditioning and it shows”
Kelly: “We showed our true potential because we were challenged by being in Division I.”
They proved to the northern schools that they do actually play the sport well along the I-91 corridor.
The last word comes from Coursen, and it reflects words players already had introduced. She told me, “These girls were ready to be challenged. I knew this would be challenging for them, but they had conquered everything thrown at them so moving to Division I would be the only way to make them better. They were up to the challenge.”