Oct. 23, 2008

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

“Come on, my little muffins,” Champlain Valley Union High field hockey coach Kate McDonald shouts in encouragement during games.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Champlain Valley Union High sophomore Lousie Gibbs (center) chases after the ball in the Redhawks’ 1-0 quarterfinal win over Colchester High on Friday.

On Saturday, McDonald and her muffins will be in the Division 1 championship contest against the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between undefeated, top-seeded Hartford High (14-0-1) and fourth-seeded Mount Anthony Union (11-2-1). The likely site for the title tilt is the University of Vermont, with the starting time to be announced Thursday.

The championship trip follows Tuesday’s rain swept, 2-0 home semifinal victory over Middlebury Union High. It will be the Redhawks’ first appearance in the crowning event since rejoining Division 1 a decade ago.

Should the Redhawks face Hartford High, McDonald would be respectful, but not fearful, of the Hurricanes, whom they have not seen since a quarterfinal loss two years ago.

“We play our game, we will be all right,” McDonald said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the attention was on the win over the Tigers, who had nipped CVU in double overtime in Middlebury in a 2007 semifinal.

“Coach really wanted this one and we did, too,” said goalie Elizabeth Goddette, who stopped four shots in posting her second straight playoff shutout and ninth of the season.

In knocking off Middlebury for the third time this autumn, the Redhawks got scoring production from two of the Kelseys on the team, a couple of Ks adding up to a W.

Senior Kelsey Gagnon snapped a scoreless deadlock with but 29 seconds gone in the second half, poking in a pass from sophomore Gillian Shelley after CVU rolled down the field to open the half.

It was the sixth goal for Gagnon, who is good at following special instructions from McDonald.

“When she tells me to do my magic, I do,” Gagnon said with a grin. That magic is usually a score.

Junior Kelsey Jensen, who just missed a goal in the first half after a dominating presence in front of Tiger keeper Casey O’Donohue, scored with 16:18 left in the game by getting in front after a penalty corner, faking right and left, and then firing the ball into the cage.

After a first half of solid defense in the CVU zone by, among others, Kathryn Powell, Louise Gibbs and Aubrey Deavitt, the Redhawks’ offense dominated the field over the final 15 minutes, allowing Middlebury just two short trips near Goddette.

“That seemed really good,” laughed the junior net minder.

Her teammates outshot the Tigers, 9-4.

Perhaps her mates wanted to give Goddette a rest after her nine stops in Friday’s tense 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Colchester, a big reason the Redhawks were able to wing their way into Tuesday’s contest.

One of those saves came on a second half penalty shot. Goddette slapped away a ticketed blast with a gloved hand to preserve the 1-0 lead that Katie Longshore’s goal had provided with 5:02 left in the first half. The ever present Shelley had the assist.

“We practiced on 100 penalty shots yesterday,” Goddette said at the time, agreeing that it was practice time well spent.