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Thetford Girls Soccer End 23-Year Drought

  • Thetford's Hannah Davis carries the Vermont Division III state championship trophy as the team runs across the field to show it to the crowd after their 3-1 win over Green Mountain in Westminster, Vt., on Nov. 4, 2017. The win was the first for the program in 23 years. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thetford's Casey MacVeagh (9) and Green Mountain's Brigid Karl vie for control of the ball deep in Green Mountain territory in the first half of their championship game in Westminster, Vt., on Nov. 4, 2017. Thetford won, 3-1, to take the Division III state title. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thetford teammates, from left, Grace Davis, Sophie Williams and Ellen Veracka congratulate Lily MacVeagh on her first of two second half goals against Green Mountain in their state championship game in Westminster, Vt., on Nov. 4, 2017. Thetford won, 3-1, the first state title for the program since 1994. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thetford's Brooke Horniak (11) playfully accepts the championship medallion from Hannah Davis as teammate Jordan Mousley watches following their 3-1 state championship win over Green Mountain in Westminster, Vt., on Nov. 4, 2017. They are three of five seniors on the team. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, November 04, 2017

Westminster, Vt. — The Thetford Academy girls soccer team on Saturday wasted little time showcasing how much it wanted to capture the program’s first state championship in 23 years.

The second-ranked Panthers scored less than two minutes into their Vermont Division III final against unbeaten, top-ranked Green Mountain and went on to dominate in a 3-1 win at Bellows Falls Union High School.

Senior Brooke Horniak knocked in a header from Ellen Veracka at 1:59, and sophomore twins Casey and Lily MacVeagh combined for two second-half goals as Thetford (15-2) celebrated a title for the first time since 1994 and earned redemption after a loss to Stowe in last year’s final.

It was the only loss of season for the Chieftains (17-1), who were gunning for their first-ever crown and scored with 6:41 left to spoil the shutout.

Panthers midfielder-defender Sophie Williams covered Green Mountain scoring threat Paige Karl brilliantly — the two are teammates on the Norwich-based Lightning Soccer Club — and Kate Vaughan, Lily Brown and others anchored a Thetford midfield and defense that allowed little pressure. Senior goalie Danielle Robinson made five saves for the Panthers, who outscored their postseason foes a combined 12-1.

“This means so much to the seniors and the whole program,” said Vaughan, one of four Panther seniors playing in their final game. “I don’t plan to play soccer in college, so to be able to end (my soccer career) like this with these girls is just really awesome.”

It’s the second girls varsity title in eight months for Thetford, which rallied to win the D-III girls basketball title against Windsor last March.

“That basketball championship was pretty sweet, but I feel like I really got to contribute to this one, getting the first goal,” said Horniak, who redirected Veracka’s header to the right corner. “This team worked really hard this year, and it means so much more to get back here and win it after losing it last year.”

The Panthers’ early strike put the Chieftains on their heels, but playing from behind wasn’t their only issue. Thetford, which plays in the Capital League and finished the regular season with five straight games against Division I and II opponents, was better positioned, quicker to the ball and more physical.

The Panthers’ 15-11 edge in shots only sniffed at how thoroughly Thetford controlled the game. Its 9-2 advantage in corner kicks spoke of it more accurately.

“They were a better team and outplayed us, plain and simple,” said first-year Green Mountain coach Carolynn Hamilton, whose Marble Valley League team faced no D-II or D-I teams and played six D-IV opponents. “We hope to have a more difficult schedule next year; it’s something we’re working on. Hopefully, we’ll be able to play (Thetford). But our girls played hard to the end today, and they’ll be back.”

The Panthers previously played in the Division IV-dominated Central Vermont League but joined rival Oxbow in making the switch to the Capital League about seven years ago.

“To me, it’s just a great opportunity for our kids, to play schools like Montpelier, U-32, Harwood, Lyndon. They’re great programs, and they make it so you’re facing great competition all year,” second-year Thetford coach Dave Williams said. “I remember (former Thetford boys soccer coach) Simon Mayo talking about how difficult it was playing in (the CVL) and being prepared for the playoffs, so I think we’ve got a pretty good schedule.”

The Panthers had numerous chances to double their lead before halftime, first when Lily MacVeagh got around Green Mountain starting goalie Hannah Buffum and forced a stop by Chieftains defender Brigid Karl.

After Buffum departed with a leg injury, the Panthers’ Arwen Clayton sent a shot off the cross bar with sophomore Kamryn Ravlin in the Green Mountain net. Horniak later challenged Ravlin with a header off a corner-kick service from Grace Davis, and Lily MacVeagh sent a try too high after a crisp crossing pass from Hannah Davis fewer than 10 seconds before halftime.

Green Mountain was aggressive at the start of the second half, forcing Robinson saves against Brigid Karl and a low-lying bid by Paige Karl. The MacVeagh twins made them pay for the misfires as they connected off of a corner kick and crossing pass in the 55th and 69th minutes, respectively, for Lily MacVeagh’s eighth and ninth goals of the year. Casey MacVeagh led the team with 20 goals and nine assists.

“I think it’s really exciting for both of us to contribute to a team that came together so well this season,” Lily MacVeagh said.

Casey MacVeagh appeared well-seasoned on her corner-kick deliveries, though she never was relied upon for the services during youth league.

“I never really did a lot of them growing up, but I worked on my chipping (high-arcing shots) so that I could,” she said.

It was a complete performance by Thetford, which should be poised for success for years to come despite losing five seniors.

“Today was all about marking their best players well,” said Dave Williams, Sophie’s dad. “Sophie did a great job on Paige (Karl), and a number of other players did a great job against (Green Mountain’s) Avery Prescott. Grace Davis was awesome at sweeper, and Lily Brown really came to play. (Assistant coach Ted MacVeagh) talked me out of making too many adjustments and just sticking to our game. Obviously, it worked.”

Free Kicks: It was the teams’ first playoff meeting since Thetford’s 2-0 win in the first round in 1997. … Casey MacVeagh’s 20 goals this season were 19 more than she registered as a freshman. … Green Mountain fell to 0-2 in state finals, its only other appearance coming seven years ago in a penalty-kick loss to Stowe following a 0-0 deadlock. ... Thetford improved to 2-4 in state finals.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.