MIDDLEBURY -- The No. 4 Mount Anthony Union High School field hockey team gave it everything they had against the top-seeded Essex Hornets in the semifinals of the Vermont Division I field hockey tournament.
But in the end, it just wasn't enough.
After the Patriots played the Hornets to a tight 1-0 score at halftime, Essex came out in the second half and hung six goals on Mount Anthony, securing a 7-0 win that sends Essex to the finals.
"Credit to Essex, they are just a really good team," coach Laura Paro said. "In the first half, Essex wasn't connecting, and Leah [Holland] came up with some big saves. If the second half had been like that, we could have hung in this game."
As it was, there was very little difference between the two sides through the first 30 minutes.
While Essex was able to control the flow of play, their offensive attacks were often thwarted by the defense, or Leah Holland was able to come up with a save. On the game, Holland notched 17 saves.
But even with the tough defense, Essex found an opening with less than six minutes left in the half.
Briege Mahoney sent a shot in towards Holland. The ball deflected off of a MAU player's stick, and fell to Kathleen Young. From a foot out, Young smashed it home to make it 1-0.
"[Kathleen] has wicked hand-eye coordination, she is fast, and she is smart," said Essex coach Heather Garrow.
Right before the half ended, the Patriots nearly knotted things up.
On a penalty corner, senior Makayla Farrara let go of a hard shot towards the cage. The ball deflected, and fell to the stick of sophomore Margaret Curtin. Curtin put the shot back towards the cage, but it went just wide across the face of goal.
"We played our hearts out, and did the best we could," Holland said. "We had an amazing first half. We kept Essex away. That first goal wasn't lucky, we just had to be forward. It was good to end the first half with an offensive corner."
But any momentum picked up after the first half quickly dissipated in the second half.
Ninety seconds in, Alex Celia found the cage on a shot from the top of the circle. Three minutes after that, Paige Mittl scored off a rebound.
After Holland came up with a string of saves, Essex found the net again when Young made a run with the ball from midfield.
Getting up to the circle, Young let loose with a rocket, which found the cage on the left side.
"In the second, they came out and got a corner and mentally, we had a lull. Mentally, I think we had a hard time adjusting after that," Paro said.
Young completed the hat trick following up her own rebound, hitting it back in to make it 5-0.
Mittl would score her second with just under 10 to play, then Abby Evans rounded out the scoring.
"I hoped we would play well, but I didn't expect us to play this well," Garrow said. "It was exciting to watch."
For the Patriots, the loss marks the end of the road. Seniors Leah Holland, Rachel Holland, Farrara, and Gabby Loomis finish out their careers with three semifinal appearances.
"I am very proud of them, and they had great leadership," Paro said. "I wanted them to leave it on the field tonight and remember that they played here."
For Holland, this year will be remembered not for the loss, but for how far the team came to get to this game.
"I think I will probably remember how well we did throughout the year. I thought that because we were a young, inexperienced team that we wouldn't get as far as we have," Holland said. "They really blew my mind, every single player out there. They went above and beyond what I thought we were capable of."
Mount Anthony finishes the year with an 11-5 record. Essex moves on to play Hartford in the finals on Saturday at the University of Vermont.