BENNINGTON >> As the Vermont Division I playoffs get underway this week, the Mount Anthony girls lacrosse team is riding a wave of momentum not only from a four-game win streak but from avenging a loss to rival Burr and Burton, the Patriots' first win over the Bulldogs since 2010.
That year holds a special place for the Patriots, as it was the last and only time MAU won the state championship.
The Patriots are 13-2 and hold the No. 2 spot in the index point rankings in Division I. They've done it with a relentless offense and a smothering defense and that combination makes them dangerous in the postseason.
"We've really worked on teamwork this year," said Mount Anthony coach Whitney Brooks. "Every time we get on the field, we're talking, very vocal. We have strong upperclassmen and they've welcomed the freshmen like family."
On offense, the Patriots have scored at least 10 goals in every game but one
Individually, they are led by junior Emily Altland, who recorded her 200th career goal this season against BBA and senior Bridget Ahearn. But opponents can't focus their efforts on those two, because there are at least five other scoring options on a regular basis.
"Our offense works really well and even the bench players, the ones who don't start, are getting their opportunities," Brooks said. "It can be frustrating not to start, but we continue to build their confidence. [The older players] are always getting them the ball, there's no selfishness on this team."
Defensively, opponents have been held to less than 10 goals in nine of the team's 15 games. The current defense isn't the one that started the season, as Munroe Ports and Victoria Pembroke each suffered ACL tears this season.
"We had to rebuild our defense, and it helped that we've had such great communication," Brooks said. "[One of our seniors], Claire [Taub], has taught the younger players everything they know."
In goal, Carly Plaisance has come up with big saves at crucial times and is the last line of defense for the Patriots. Plaisance made a career-high 17 saves in the Patriots' last regular season game against BBA.
"She can see the whole field, she's definitely the backbone of our defense," Brooks said.
They've also been able to win the close games, going 4-2 in contests decided by three goals or less. The two losses were to Mount Greylock and BBA, both of whom the Patriots beat in the return meeting.
"We videotape the games and we watch the film with the team and we can see what we did, so instead of telling them what we need to do, we can show them and try to perfect it," Brooks said.
If the rankings hold true, the Patriots would get a first round bye and then host a playoff quarterfinal against South Burlington or BFA St. Albans. Official seedings are scheduled to come out today.