A quick strike on offense was just enough to help the Champlain Valley Union field hockey team slip past second place-ranked Essex in the Division I semifinals on Monday afternoon.
Flynn Hall tallied twice – with the second strike coming less a minute after the Hornets had tied the game – to help the Redhawks get the 2-1 win and book a spot in the D-I state championship game.
“If the chemistry is right, the wins happen,” said CVU coach Tucker Pierson. “This is just a really special group.”
The title game appearance is the third in the last four years for the Redhawks, who fell to South Burlington in overtime two years ago. But CVU returns only two players from the 2015 squad as they hunt for their first title since 2008.
The D-I final will be played on Saturday, Nov. 4, at the University of Vermont’s Moulton Winder Field. The time is to be determined.
“I told them to have fun, to play good field hockey, and to enjoy the opportunity,” Pierson said. “These are high school girls that have a lot going on in their lives, so keeping them focused is my goal.”
The push for a return to the final was not easy for CVU, who got the offense it needed from Hall in the first half and a standout defensive performance from goalie Kristy Carlson (10 saves) in the second.
“They dug down and they found their grit,” Pierson said. “They played together.”
In the first half, CVU opened the scoring when Hall tapped in a loose ball after a scramble in front with 17 minutes remaining. Essex, who had beaten the Redhawks in both regular season games, responded with the tying goal four minutes later, with Jenna Puleo scoring off a penalty corner.
But CVU came right back 40 seconds later, with Hall scoring her second of the game on a pass from Bella Rieley off a penalty corner.
In the second half, the Redhawk defense and Carlson stepped up, holding a potent Essex team just enough to secure the win.
“We just supported each other well. Midfielders were able to back up the forwards,” Pierson said. “The second half wasn’t perfect field hockey; we were able to just hold them off and keep possession as best we could.”
CVU will play top seed South Burlington in the D-I title match on Saturday at 10 a.m. at UVM’s Moulton Winder Field.
“I think that either team is going to be pressuring us really hard,” Pierson said. “I am hoping to see a high level of play. I am hoping we can improve our possession on the turf. I am hoping that we can work on that and tightening up our defensive corners.”