Photo Gallery | Mount Anthony Union girls lacrosse advances to finals
BENNINGTON — With a little over two minutes to play and their best defender Claire Taub out with an injury, the No. 2 Mount Anthony defense stood tall with an impressive stand, moving on to the Division I final with an 11-10 victory over No. 3 Champlain Valley to advance to the finals of the Division I tournament for the first since 2010.
"This game was such a whirlwind, but I am so proud of the girls for how they played in the second half to get the win," said MAU coach Whitney Brooks. "We got off to a slow start in the first half, but the girls did a great job battling back in the second half to dig deep and get the win."
At the start of the game, Mount Anthony got out of the block in a hurry when Bridget Ahearn scored 15 seconds into the game to give the Patriots an early lead.
But CVU came right back with 3-0 run on the Patriots to take a 3-1 lead.
With their offense off to a slow start, MAU needed a spark to get themselves back into and got it from Emily Altland.
The team's leading scorer did what she does best, dodging defenders and firing a laser into the back of the net to cut the Patriots deficit to one.
Then Altland got her teammates involved in the scoring action, dishing out a nice pass to Brianna Zipprich who scored while tumbling backwards to tie the game at 3-3.
CVU though came right back with a goal of their own to retake lead and started a trend of the two squads trading goals back and forth for the rest of the half until Zipprich after Altland scored her third goal of the half to tie the game at 5-5, scored her second goal of the game off a free position shot to give MAU back the lead with 6:39 to go in the first half.
"We did a great job of taking advantage of the free position shots we got on CVU spacing fouls," Altland said. "To win a game you have take advantage of those opportunities and we did that today.
MAU scored a total of four free position shots in the game.
With the lead back in hand, MAU again was unable to stop CVU from coming right back to tie the game and then retake the lead on a goal from Lydia Maitland with under two minutes to play in the half, that put the Patriots at a one goal deficit at halftime at 7-6.
At halftime, the Patriots recharged and started quickly again, a goal from Altland tied the score yet again, at 7-7.
Each squad answered the other's goal with their own as they traded the next six tallies, making it a 10-10 tie with 10 minutes to go.
A few minutes later, Altland showed why she has been MAU's go-to scorer all season long as the junior, with double and triple teams being thrown at her all game long, drove her way into the crease and slammed home her game-high seventh goal and ultimately game-winning score for an 11-10 lead.
"It feels good to come up with the goal that ultimately gives your team the victory," Altland said. "My teammates did a good job all game helping me get some open shots and it feels good to step up in the big moments for the team."
The lead back now in hand again, MAU this time did not allow CVU to tie things up again or retake the lead, doing so with a great defensive stand in the game's waning moments.
They were led by goaltender Carly Plaisance, who made two great saves in net in the final few minutes to keep MAU in front.
"I knew I needed to step for my team in that moment with a one-goal lead and I really happy that I was able to do so," Plaisance said. "I waited for the ball to come to me and made sure I stayed in front of it and didn't let anything get by me."
Overall, the defense was rock solid to end the game for MAU, holding CVU to no goals for the last 12 minutes of the contest.
"At halftime we talked about just playing our game and not letting some hiccups in the first half on defense hurt us," Brooks said. "From the great saves from Carly in net to the all the girls on defense doing a great job protecting the net and doing a good job pressuring the ball, it really stopped CVU from getting into a flow on offense and really helped us seal the deal."
As the seconds ticked down, Plaisance and the MAU defense shut down CVU on the final possession and when the clock hit zero, the Patriots punched their first ticket to the finals in six seasons.
Ahearn finished with two goals scored in the win.
Plaisance racked up a total of nine saves in the contest, with six coming in the second half.
"This was just an unbelievable win and I can't be prouder of the girls and how they dug deep when things got tough and fought back to get the win," Brooks said. "Every girl stepped up for us in the second half to get the win and I think this just shows how resilient and hard working our team is."
MAU now improves to 15-2 on the season and will advance to play Middlebury in the finals on Saturday. The Tigers were upset winners over Mount Mansfield in Tuesday's other semifinal.