By Mal Boright
A familiar autumn setting is coming up for the undefeated (17-0) Champlain Valley Union High girls’ soccer team Saturday.
The second-seeded Redhawks will be on the artificial turf at Burlington High School Saturday, hoping to capture their fourth straight championship trophy and their second consecutive undefeated season. Game time was to be announced by the Vermont Principals Association.
It will also be familiar territory for the Burlington High Seahorses, who will be defending their home ground after beating Mount Mansfield Union 2-1 Tuesday while CVU was popping Colchester High 3-0 in semifinal games.
Burlington, fourth-seeded, hiked its record to 14-3 in making the finals for the first time since 2009, when it nipped CVU to take the title.
During the regular season, the Redhawks scored two victories, 3-0 at home and 3-1 at BHS, over the Seahorses, both in September.
A young and fifth-seeded Colchester team did not go easily at CVU’s soaked soccer meadow, with both teams slogging through a scoreless first half.
“We were a little frantic in the first half, partly because of the field conditions,” said CVU coach Stan Williams after the game.
In these tense playoff situations, first and then second goals take on immense importance, and this was no different.
For CVU it was tall, able junior midfielder Lia Gagliuso who, so to speak, launched the CVU rocket ship by booting a well-placed direct kick from outside the box high into the net and off the reaching hands of capable Laker keeper Danielle Witham. Just over a minute had elapsed after intermission.
“I was just going to hit it (the ball) into the crowd but I saw coach signal for the shot so I tried to go for it,” said Gagliuso, whose talented foot is considered by Williams to be a special soccer weapon.
Then, with over 21 minutes remaining, CVU’s Audrey Allegretta found teammate Bronwen Hopwood alone on the left side of the Colchester cage. Hopwood, with her left foot, curled a perfect high shot into the open left side of the net, a shot on which Witham (14 stops) had no chance.
“You bent it like Beckham?” the senior Hopwood was asked.
“I did,” was the reply. “I was able to hit it perfectly.”
A little more than five minutes later, Hopwood scored again, taking a cross from Ellie Blake that tantalizingly bounced past the front of the cage to a waiting Hopwood who rapped the sphere into an empty corner.
“I was in perfect position for the cross from Ellie,” Hopwood said.
Blake, a senior defender, also had some moments up back helping to deflect at least one first half Colchester shot away from the CVU goalie, where Maddie Turneau completed the Redhawks’ 14th shutout of the season with a pair of first half saves.
Williams’ crew gained the semifinal round Friday with a 3-0 home quarterfinal victory over Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans.
The critical first goal came late in the first half from sophomore Naomi Burhans, who was positioned to slam home a corner kick from, yes, Gagliuso.
Sophomore Sierra Morton (from junior Megan Gannon) and Hopwood (from Anne Keene) completed the goal making in the second half. CVU held a 22-3 advantage in shots on goal.