BENNINGTON — Teamwork, focused and hard working. Those are the qualities that describe this season's Mount Anthony girls lacrosse team.
The Patriots are having an incredible season, sitting currently at 14-2 on the season and hosting CVU in the semifinals today with a win advancing MAU to the finals of the Division I tournament.
"This is a very motivated group that wants to be great and have worked hard to get to where they are at this season," said MAU coach Whitney Brooks. "I have never coached a team like this who want to win a championship so badly and it's been a blast coaching a team that is focused and determined to be great."
The key to MAU's success has been the fact that, one, they are a family and play as complete unit, but also that they all share the same mind-set of wanting to be champions and all of them working hard with the help of each other to become better players, so they can have shot of playing for a state title.
"In the past there have been teams where only half the team wants to go all out for a state, but in our case everyone is striving to be better so we have a shot at winning a championship and they do so as a cohesive unit too," said MAU coach Chloe Griffin. "There is no drama on this team. There are no little cliques or anything like that on the squad. It's a team full of girls that want to be the best they can be and want to help their teammates do the same."
The strength of the Patriots starts with their explosive offense.
MAU is averaging almost 14 goals a game and have only once this season scored under 10 goals in a contest.
"Our offense's success has come from how well we play together as a unit," said MAU senior Bridget Ahearn. "We work so well together and because of that great chemistry we have, it allows us to open more scoring opportunities for everybody on the field. I haven't been a part of an offense that can be so dangerous like ours has been this season."
Alongside Ahearn, juniors Emily Altland and Brianna Zipprich make up the top three scorers for an MAU offense that has shooters galore.
The Patriots have had scoring contributions up and down their lineup this season.
From senior Anne Peck and junior Riley Mintrone to ninth graders Avery Galle and Natalie Jelley, the MAU offense has girls that can score from all over the place.
"We're such a deep team and we have girls that can come off the bench and do just as well as the starters can," Peck said. "We have a lot of talent on this team and everybody on the team can make plays for us on the field."
Talent and teamwork have really impacted the MAU defense as well this season.
Led by defensive captain Claire Taub and goaltender Carly Plaisance, an area of weakness to start the year for MAU has blossomed into a solid unit now in the playoffs for the Patriots.
"Our defense has really come a long way from where we started this season," Taub said. "We have really grown as unit over the season and I think that comes from how well we communicate as a defense. Us defenders and Carly have really development a great bond on defense and through that we have been able to get better as the season has gone on."
In the last three games, the Patriots haven't given up more then seven goals in a game.
Today's game will mark the second time in three years that MAU has made it to the semifinals, the last time being in 2014 against rival Burr and Burton.
It will also so be the third time in program history that the Patriots will host a semifinals game, with the last time being in 2010 when MAU beat Rutland and went on to win the program's only state championship.
This will be the second straight year too that MAU has faced CVU in the playoffs as the Patriots defeated the Redhawks last year in the quarterfinals, 14-11.
History aside, though, this MAU team is focused on marking their own footnote in program history and are ready to take that next step towards playing for a state championship.
"These girls are ready to go and I haven't seen a team so focused as they are for this game against CVU," Brooks said. "It's an honor coaching a team like this that wants to win so badly and have taken the initiative upon themselves and as team to do so by working hard to get better in practice. It has been really fun to watch and I can't wait to see how these girls play today."
The Patriots host CVU in the semifinals today at 5 p.m.