BURLINGTON — After their first win of the season against Brattleboro, junior Brianna Zipprich yelled out to the rest of the Mount Anthony girls lacrosse team, "Do I hear a state championship?"
That statement was the beginning.
Zipprich's outburst ended up prophetic as the No. 2 Patriots held No. 4 Middlebury to a single second half goal in a 11-6 MAU victory, its second state championship in school history.
"I'm so proud of our team and being able to win a state championship," said MAU second-year coach Whitney Brooks. "These girls were so determined all season to reach this goal of a state championship and I am happy they were able to accomplish that."
Early on, both the Patriots and Tigers were on point, neither showing nerves as both offenses came out on fire to start the game.
Senior Bridget Ahearn got things started off for the Patriots will the game's first goal, and ended up scoring four of MAU's first five goals, including a tally to tie the game at 5-5 with 5:14 left in the first half.
"I knew I had to step it up for my team and any opportunity [that] I had to score, I did my best to cash in on," Ahearn said. "It's the state championship game and the last game of my high school career, so I wanted to give it my all and play well. I'm thrilled that I was able to do that and help my team win."
The turning point of the game came in the last three minutes of the first half.
First it was senior Annie Peck, who drove down the left sideline and ripped fired a shot between the post and the goalie to give MAU a 6-5 lead.
Then Ahearn went from scoring goals to setting up her teammates, feeding a nice pass to Zipprich in front, which the junior cashed in with her first goal of the contest to make it 7-5.
That set up the dagger, when junior Alex Cross, who made most of her opportunities, scored her first playoff goal with less than 30 seconds left in the first half to give MAU a 8-5 lead at the half.
"Winning those two draws near the end of the half was huge for us," Brooks said. "We got control of the ball and we didn't settle. We just went right to the net and got two huge scores that gave us a good lead going into halftime. I think that really helped going into the second half knowing we had a nice lead to work with."
The halftime break didn't slow the Patriots one bit. Starting the second half, Zipprich found the back of the cage and gave the Patriots' a four goal lead, the MAU defense then become the story of the contest.
The defense was lights out in the second half, especially in the midfield as MAU forced turnover after turnover by the Tigers that didn't allow Middlebury to get past the 50 for the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Overall from the 8:40 mark in the first half until the Tigers scored with 1:15 left, Middlebury didn't get a shot past MAU goalie Carly Plaisance for more than 33 minutes.
Plaisance ended up with seven saves as the defense was rock solid.
"We were able to pressure them into making some mistakes when they were trying to move the ball in transition and that allowed to create a lot of turnovers," said MAU coach Chloe Griffin. "Our defenders did what they had to do to protect the goal and Carly, when she was needed, stepped up big time for us. They did what they needed to do to help us win."
Junior Emily Altland scored her team-leading 81st goal of the season to extend the MAU lead to 10-5 midway through the second half. Despite being face guarded and marked most of the game, Altland kept her cool and filled up the stat sheet with two goals and an assist.
"I just kept my composure and kept my head in the game," Altland said. "If I wasn't able to get free for scoring chances, I just created them for my teammates by setting picks or good passes. All game long I just did what was best for the team and I couldn't be prouder of how my teammates played around me today."
Leading 10-6 as the clock ticked down to the last 10 seconds, Peck scored a sweet insurance goal, her second of the day, and put a stamp on Mount Anthony's first championship since 2010.
In total, 6 of the 11 goals came from seniors.
With tears of joy, they ran on to the field when the clock hit zero and the Patriots began to celebrate their great achievement and can now say for life that they are state champions.
"I am at a loss for words for how proud I am of this group's girls and how they fought hard all season long to reach their goal of being state champions," Brooks said. "This will be a game that us coaches and the girls will never forget and I am so happy was able to share this moment with all of them."