MANCHESTER — With temperatures nearing 90 degrees on Saturday afternoon, it was the Burr and Burton girls lacrosse team who brought the heat.
With a stifling defense, the No. 1 seeded Bulldogs defeated No. 8 Middlebury 12-5 on a hot Saturday afternoon at Taylor Field in Division I quarterfinal action.
A score in the first three minutes gave the Bulldogs the lead and they held onto it until the end.
Good teams often have multiple identities, and such is the case with the 16-0 Bulldogs. On a day where the offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders — the 12 goals are tied for the fourth fewest on the year in a game for BBA — its defense stepped up in a big way.
Trailing 4-0, Middlebury scored its first goal in the 15th minute of the first half, which signaled the beginning of a solid seven-minute stretch for the visitors who were able to rattle off four scores. Hana Doria was responsible for three of those Tiger goals, the last of which saw the sophomore midfielder run the length of the field and fire a missile into the back of the net, bringing Middlebury within one score with 8:08 left in the first half.
That seven-minute stretch is the only time Middlebury’s offense looked comfortable all afternoon. The Bulldogs defense did a fantastic job making life difficult for any Tiger who had possession. The Bulldogs were even better the few times in the first half Middlebury attacked the net, forcing lots of turnovers.
With the defense showing out, the Bulldog offense hung eight on the scoreboard in the first half. Paige Samuelson scored at the buzzer to give BBA the 8-4 advantage heading into the break.
Bulldog coach Ken Stefanak made some halftime adjustments which resonated with his team, specifically his defense who allowed just one score in the final 25 minutes of play.
“Lola (Herzog) really refocused,” Stefanak said about his senior goalie. “The defense also picked up some picks, where we were able to slide and create bad-angle shots.”
Herzog had a phenomenal second half. In the few instances the BBA defense broke down, Herzog stood tall and stopped the scoring chances.
Middlebury looked poised to begin the scoring in the second half at the 21-minute mark, but Herzog was in perfect position and corralled the ball into her net. The senior made two more athletic plays to keep Middlebury off the board over the next nine minutes of action. In what easily could have become a one-goal game with 14 minutes left to play, Herzog’s stellar play kept the Bulldog lead at four and Sadie Stefanak finally put home the first goal of the second half with 12:35 left to grow BBA’s lead to 9-4.
The Bulldogs added a couple more goals over the next few minutes, and Middlebury scored its lone goal of the second half during that stretch as BBA’s lead sat at 11-5 with less than eight minutes left.
The first half showcased 12 scores, with just five in the second half. Multiple factors contributed to a bit of a slower half of play.
Coach Stefanak stressed to his girls to work the ball around the field more in the second half to look for better scoring opportunities. The heat undoubtedly also played a role, as substitutions were more plentiful as players on both sides seemed gassed at times.
A long week for BBA may have also played a part. BBA celebrated its graduation on Friday and the Bulldogs girls lacrosse team boasts nine seniors. Juggling senior week celebrations while making a playoff run is a lot to ask from players.
“It’s been an emotional week,” Stefanak said. “It’s been a really busy week, we’re going to look forward to the day-off tomorrow for sure. And then, start to think about the next round.”
It’s been a busy week not only for the students and players, but also for BBA’s coaching staff. Stefanak revealed to his team after the win that he watched game film on No. 4 BFA-St. Albans prior to Saturday’s game to prepare for the team’s semifinal matchup on Tuesday. BFA defeated CVU on Friday night to advance to Tuesday’s semifinal matchup in Manchester.