BURLINGTON, Vt. – The South Burlington Wolves were right at home last Saturday with a short commute to the Vermont Division I field hockey championship and playing on a surface just like the one at their high school.
That comfort level paid huge dividends for the Wolves as they came out on fire with two quick goals while the Terriers were still breaking in their new turf shoes. Behind a brilliant goal-tending job by South Burlington’s Izzy Redzic the Terriers were battling uphill all day.
Things began well for Bethany’s Coursen’s underdog Terriers when Maya Waryas ripped off a hard shot that Redzic kicked away but South Burlington entered the tournament undefeated and were looking to make up for a loss to Bellows Falls in 2018.
“Our focus this year was to get to this game and beat Bellows Falls, that was what we said on day one of practice” Redzic said.
The Wolves regrouped quickly and made a dash toward the Bellows Falls end with Jaia Caron waiting between the goal bars. South Burlington is built for a turf field with blazing speed across their formation and solid stick handling that looked like the ball was glued to their sticks at times.
A shot from the far wing skipped across the carpet and hopped just as it entered the goal area. Julianna McDermid, Caron, and Grace Wilkinson were in great positions but the turf wasn’t kind to Bellows Falls as the ball found the stick of Hope Brunet and it was 1-0 only five minutes into the game. Bellows Falls hadn’t trailed hardly at all this season and it got worse quickly for the Terriers.
Reese Bailey slipped a perfect pass to a streaking Abby Guenther in stride as Caron came off her line try and kick the ball away. Instead, Guenther just slid toward the right corner and let fly a shot that hit a Bellows Falls defender and found the back of the net for a 2-0 lead with eight minutes remaining in the first period. The Terriers looked to respond with Waryas and Sadie Scott blasting away on net with no results as the half ended 2-0.
During the halftime break, the South Burlington side was confident. “The next 15 minutes will be the hardest and we need to maintain control” was the message from head coach Anjie Soucy.
While on the Bellows Falls side of the field it was a different feeling.
“It doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says, we can come back,” Coursen said. “We just need to attack the ball better.”
The halftime speech rejuvenated Bellows Falls as they controlled play for big stretches of the third period.
Wilkinson and Waryas were hunting for a goal as their shots were true. One blast from Waryas was so hard it took a South Burlington player off her feet knocking her to the turf before being helped off the field. The only thing standing between a Bellows Falls goal was Redzic and outstanding defender Ava LaRoss as she was brilliant for South Burlington. The Terriers were doing all the right things with shots at net but just couldn’t get the break they needed as the teams entered the final quarter with South Burlington still leading 2-0.
“A 2-0 score is nothing against a team like Bellows Falls. They are the best team in Vermont and it took everything we had today,” said Soucy after the game.
The Terriers had a golden chance to grab one back early in the final period as a shot dribbled past Redzic. Emma Bazin and Scott took stabs at it as Grace Bazin and Wilkinson closed in on the orange ball but couldn’t push it in the goal.
“I think once we got more used to the turf, we played much better especially in the second half,” said Waryas after the game. “I am so proud of this team. We never gave up.”
Over the last half of the final quarter of the game, Bellows Falls and South Burlington traded goals as Waryas put Bellows Falls on the board.
“It took us a while to adjust to the speed and once we did, I thought we held our own against a very good South Burlington team,” said Coursen.
The Bellows Falls future looks bright as some of the younger players tasted what it’s like to play in a championship game.
“This team is just amazing, I’ve learned so much from the seniors and that hard work will continue,” LaRoss said.
“South Burlington is a great team,” E. Bazin said, “but I think we’ll be right back here next year.”
Does Bellows Falls belong in Division I with such a small school population?
“We want to be the best and we want to play the best,” G. Bazin said. “Division I is where we belong and make no mistake, the Terriers will be back.”
South Burlington would end up with a 3-1 win as Bellows Falls got ready to board their school bus for the long trip home.
“My whole life has been about field hockey,” Wilkinson said. “The memories will last a lifetime and to say that I’m proud of not only my team but my school and community is not even close to how I feel. I am so very, very proud.”
Written by Christopher Shaban, Eagle Times