BBA girls beat MAU in Division I quarterfinals

MANCHESTER — Emily Bleakie scored a goal and assisted another as the Burr and Burton Academy girls' soccer team advanced to the Vermont Division I semifinals with a 2-0 win over Mount Anthony Union on Saturday morning.

Bleakie, a senior midfielder, had a strong all-around game as second-seeded BBA (13-3) fended off a spirited effort from MAU (9-6) for its 10th straight win.

Hannah Pinkus scored the other goal for BBA, connecting on a header from a Bleakie corner kick in the first half.

The Bulldogs are scheduled to play a semifinal match at Taylor Field on Wednesday against the winner of Saturday's Colchester-Mount Mansfield quarterfinal.

The start of Saturday's game lacked flow on either side — perhaps understandably, given the win-or-go-home stakes and the added layer of the MAU-BBA rivalry. As the game unfolded, Burr and Burton had trouble maintaining possession, with two of its top scoring forwards marked closely one-on-one, while Mount Anthony was unable to sustain a counterattack against BBA's back line.

"It's always going to be a back and forth game against Mount Anthony," BBA coach Suzanne Mears said.

MAU, which lost 7-0 to BBA on Oct. 10, was determined to limit BBA's potent offense and keep the score close through the first half.

"We knew what we were coming into. This is a very good offensive team," MAU coach Mark Boudreau said of BBA. "We realized we were sacrificing numbers forward. Our whole plan was keep the score low."

But by midway through the half, the Bulldogs were controlling possession as they began stringing passes together and creating scoring chances. They finally converted when Pinkus headed Bleakie's corner kick into the net in the 30th minute.

What worked for BBA? "Staying strong on the ball, keeping our composure, moving the ball around and providing space as well," Mears said. "What works for us is when we can have some movement on and off the ball."

Yet, despite having the field tilted against them, the Patriots were still only down 1-0. That was in large part due to a strong effort by MAU goalkeeper Madison Breese, who stopped a Rebecca Montaufray long-distance line drive in the 22nd minute and a short-range Hannah Pinkus shot three minutes later.

"She's been doing that all year," Boudreau said of Breese, a junior.

Mears was impressed by Breese's effort as well. "She's great. She doesn't stop," she said of Breese. "She plays with her heart."

Mount Anthony came out firing in the second half in search of the tying goal. Their best chance may have been early in the half, when they flooded the BBA zone behind a free kick before Bulldogs goalkeeper Samantha Citron scooped up a loose ball to end the threat.

"We came out a little more urgent. We realized we had to keep the ball a little more and be less defensive minded," Boudreau said of his halftime adjustments.

But MAU's window of opportunity closed 10 minutes into the second half, when a free kick was awarded to BBA. Bleakie delivered the sort of shot soccer players dream about — a laser that sailed high into the back of the net from about 25 yards out, putting the Bulldogs up 2-0.

The Patriots kept battling. Forward Kaidin Gauthier made a late run that forced BBA goalie Samantha Citron to come out and make a play on the ball midway through the second half. And late substitution Antonia Pellon stole a pass in her own end and made a run up the sideline that allowed MAU to press forward.

But the BBA defense proved equal to the task, as MAU was unable to establish enough possession in the Bulldogs' end to mount a concerted attack on net.

While the loss ends MAU's season, Boudreau was proud of what the Patriots were able to achieve, and the way they hung tough against the defending state champions.

"We got the most out of our team, more than any team I've coached," Boudreau said afterwards. "We on several occasions overachieved. The girls stepped up, and there was constant improvement all season. If you had told me [9-6] was the record with a playoff win, I would have signed up for that.

"I had us pegged as a 500 team and we were certainly better than that."

Reach Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000.


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