Phillips, Wolves edge BBA in tight D-1 title game
BURLINGTON — The Burr and Burton girls lacrosse team came into Saturday's Division I state championship game at UVM's Virtue Field against No. 1 South Burlington with one goal in mind — bring the hardware back to Manchester.
Wolves goalie Claire Phillips had a different plan.
Phillips made key save after key save, racking up 14 on the day against a strong BBA attack and pushed her team to a hard fought 8-7 win against the Bulldogs to claim the state title.
The win completed South Burlington's perfect 19-0 season.
"[Claire] is very talented. She earned every single one of those saves today," said second-year Bulldogs coach Jamie Blake, who's team won five more games this season than last spring. "We helped her quite a bit in the first half. Everything we did was high and stick side. That's really easy for her to see and we forced some shots early on. She played outstanding. You can't give her balls to her stick [side]."
"She's just been so steady for us all season," said South Burlington coach Anjie Soucy. "She's a senior and been with me for four years. All three of our playoff games she just played fantastic and held other teams off the scoreboard enough so we could get enough of a lead."
Saturday's championship contest was one decided squarely on the defensive end.
Goals were hard to come by with potent on-ball defense from both sides and exceptional goalie play from Phillips and BBA's Cassie Pearce.
This made every goal feel important and an early run from the Wolves proved crucial in the end.
Kate Hall put South Burlington on the board first, and quickly after, Kathryn DeMag pocketed a free position chance to make it 2-0.
Some great eluding moves on an ensuing possession from Lindsey Booth increased the lead to three.
About a minute and half later, BBA finally answered back with a goal from senior captain Olivia Watanabe and the score remained 3-1 for a handful of minutes, before another Wolves goal put the lead back at three.
Watanabe was a key piece all game long for the Bulldogs, much like she's been all year.
The 100-goal career scorer had four of BBA's seven goals on the day.
South Burlington went into the half leading 6-2.
Even being down four at the half, the Bulldogs knew there was still plenty of game left. Keyed on by a strong defensive gameplan, they slowed the Wolves' offensive attack considerably, holding South Burlington off the board for the first 16 minutes of the second half.
Meanwhile, goals from Audrey Anglum and Tatum Sands cut the Wolves' lead to two.
"Being able to keep them scoreless and coming out and starting to crunch that lead a little bit was really crucial for us," Blake said. "They didn't score for 20 straight minutes between the first and start of the second half. Our defense is absolutely phenomenal."
While BBA's defense features experienced seniors like Charleigh Carthy, Fiona McMahon and Sydney Goldfarb, the team had to rely on a less experienced player in sophomore Hannah Callen in its last two games, following an injury to starting senior Riley Christy.
Callen more than filled her role on the back end and is the lone returning defender next season.
"Being down an all-state defender and have your defense step up and step in, that's a true testament for the work our team has put in," Blake said. "You're only as good as the kids you practice against each day. Every kid on our team is ready to do what they need to do. This was the most playing time [Hannah] has had all season and her role has only gotten bigger."
Christina March took a bouncing shot for a score with 8:42 to play, but BBA once again battled back and a pair of goals from Watanabe cut the lead to one with 3:22 left.
In that moment, Soucy just wanted her team to play their game and knew they would be okay.
"I told them to keep playing. We've had games where we've been up and had games where we've been behind," Soucy said. "We've been in all of those scenarios, so they never panicked."
The dagger goal came with under three minutes to play, where Danielle Sleiman found a cutting March around the goal perfectly. March took a one-time tomahawk shot and put the ball past Pearce.
Julia Fillion scored a goal for BBA in the closing seconds, but the insurance goal was enough to hold off the Bulldogs.
While the loss stings, it was quite the accomplishment for the Bulldogs to even reach the state final. They would have loved to come out on top, but Blake was so proud of the effort her team put in to get to this point.
"They all went up there and got their medals and not a single one of them walked back. They love each other," Blake said. "It's the journey and not the destination. To come out on top would have been icing on the cake, but ultimately, there are only two teams that get to play today and someone has to win and someone has to lose."
BBA finishes with a 14-4 record.
The Bulldogs graduate a large group of strong senior talent with Olivia Watanabe, Julia Fillion, Cassie Pearce, Kerri Ann Campbell, Charleigh Carthy, Riley Christy, Sydney Goldfarb, Jess Grabher, Ava Marshall, Brianna Mayne, Fiona McMahon, Emma Putney, Lucille Senecal and manager Aisha Navarrete all moving on.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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