BENNINGTON — Mount Anthony girls lacrosse coaches Whitney Brooks and Chloe Griffin admit they might be very different from one another, but they share at least two things in common.
They both played lacrosse at MAU during their time in high school and both were coached by former Patriots coach Thomas Otero.
The two current Patriots leaders cite Otero, or OT as they call him, for teaching them the game and coaching it, as both worked with Otero as assistants in the past.
"Everything that [Chloe and I] know about the game of lacrosse has come from Coach Otero," Brooks said. "We are literally products of OT's coaching and it's such an honor that we got to learn the game from him. He is such a phenomenal coach and very intelligent in the game of lacrosse. It's just great to be able to learn from a coach like OT."
Otero coached the girls lacrosse team from its infancy, starting in 2001 and accumulated 145 wins and the program's first state championship in 2010 during his 14 seasons at the helm of the Patriots.
When Otero left to become the coach of the nearby Southern Vermont College women's lacrosse program in 2014, the legendary coach recommended that both Brooks and Griffin take over the Patriots program.
"It's a great feeling being able to continue the winning traditions in the program," Brooks said. "OT built this program and is the strength of it through and through. Everything we know of the game is from him and that's what helped us win this state championship."
The Patriots won their first title in six years on Saturday with a 11-6 victory over Middlebury in the Division I final.
Otero, who just retired as a teacher at Mount Anthony after more than 40 years, has had his fingerprints all over the growth of the youth lacrosse programs in Bennington.
He's been a part of the Mount Anthony Lacrosse Association, as a at-large board member, where many of the players who were a part of the championship team started their careers.
Otero has continued his successful coaching career at the college level, taking SVC to the finals of the New England Collegiate Conference tournament in only its second year of the program.
A major part of all that success is his close relationships with his players. Griffin continues to work with Otero, helping work with his players at SVC on taking better angles on their shots.
"OT is just such a great coach and helped me to become the best player I could be when I was at MAU," Griffin said. "Now as a coach, it's great to see these girls succeed and achieve their goals. You know that's what he was feeling when he was coaching us."
After MAU beat Middlebury on Saturday, Brooks and Griffin walked off the field to a beaming Otero waiting to congratulate them on their championship victory.
As the three of them hugged each other tightly with tears of joy rolling down their cheeks, the coach and his proteges shared a moment that will last a lifetime as the three championship winning coaches celebrated the newest accomplishment in the MAU program.
"I'm so proud of those two girls and what they have done for this program," Otero said. "This was their team. They developed these girls to become better players. They're the ones that taught these girls how to play great defense. They taught these girls how the game of women's lacrosse should be played and it was just beautiful to watch."
A beautiful passing of a torch moment as you will see, Otero, Brooks and Griffin are now a part of a club of MAU championship coaches. The two women, a big part of the first chapter of the program molded by Otero, are now creating a new chapter for themselves.
"We could never have gotten here it wasn't for OT," Brooks said. "He helped pave the way for us and I'm happy that we have all made him proud."