Hartford girls lacrosse looking uncatchable

  • St. Johnsbury Academy goaltender Clara Andre runs away from Hartford's Madison Barwood (28) and Sophie Howe (2) during the Vermont Division II teams' game on May 14, 2022, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

  • Hartford High's Madison Withington, center, battles dust and St. Johnsbury's Anna Cushing (4) and Clara Andre (27) during the Vermont Division II teams' game on May 14, 2022, in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford won, 16-4. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Tris Wykes

  • Hartford High's Caroline Hamilton faces off with St. Johnsbury goaltender Clara Andre during the Vermont Division II teams' game on May 14, 2022, in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford won, 16-4. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

  • Hartford High's Sophie Howe, right, tangles with St. Johnsbury's Genevieve Hatch during the Vermont Division II teams' game on May 14, 2022, in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford won, 16-4. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

  • Hartford High's Sophie Howe, left, veers away from St. Johnsbury's Sophia Shippee (15) and Genevieve Hatch during the Vermont Division II teams' game on May 14, 2022, in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford won, 16-4. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/14/2022 9:48:39 PM
Modified: 5/14/2022 9:46:51 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Heather Hartford needed to head home Saturday afternoon. There was yard work to tackle now that her undefeated Hartford High girls lacrosse team had mowed down St. Johnsbury, 16-4.

“Got to get out of the heat for a bit first,” said Hartford, the Hurricanes’ fifth-year coach and the architect of a remarkable reversal in the program’s fortunes since her arrival in 2018. Hartford is 57-23 under its current coach after going 9-88 during the eight seasons before her hiring.

It was sun’s out, guns out for Hartford against St. Johnsbury, a respected program that upset the Hurricanes in last season’s Vermont Division II semifinals. The Hilltoppers (5-3-1) graduated a dozen players last spring but remain strong. They just couldn’t keep up with the hosts’ precision passes and deadeye shots.

Hartford (11-0) has outscored its opponents, 164-37, this spring, and its tightest margin of victory is eight goals. Saturday’s contest was the Hurricanes’ fourth in five days but they nonetheless led, 11-3, at halftime.

Elliot Rupp produced seven goals and an assist, Caroline Hamilton had four goals and four assists and Addison Cadwell added two goals and six assists.

“Possession, possession, possession,” said Hartford, whose team rarely turned the ball over. “Our chemistry on defense is just amazing. On offense, we’re finding each other, making the right cuts, making the right plays.”

Drop a pass in the Hurricanes’ end or have the ball stripped from your stick and Hartford is off to the races, using quick, multiple passes to move upfield. Your chances of regaining possession before Hartford shoots or scores are extremely low.

Hartford said her team’s defense communicates so well that it can entrench around the 8-meter arc and not worry about pursuing opponents upfield or into the corners.

That saves the back line’s energy, allowing members to stick with foes making cuts and to create turnovers. A strong transition game featuring Rupp and Hamilton takes it from there.

“They’re sensing when the drive’s coming, and they’re calling the pinches and slides,” Hartford said.

First-year goaltender “Sarah Howe has grown exponentially and is showing her athleticism. She’s not afraid of the ball and steps right to it.”

A year ago, Hartford elected to stall with 3 minutes, 30 seconds remaining while leading St. Johnsbury by a goal in the semifinals. However, the top-seeded Hurricanes made an errant pass, handing the fourth-seeded Hilltoppers possession.

Sophia Shippee scored twice, the second tally with only 34 seconds remaining, to give the visitors a one-goal victory.

St. Johnsbury fell to Green Mountain Valley in the state title contest.

“That was a heartbreaker, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that game,” said Hartford, who’s guided her teams to the semifinals in each of the last three seasons in which they’e been staged.

“I thought last year’s team was definitely state title-worthy. I think the same thing of this team, but I tell them one game at a time; we don’t look that far ahead.”

St. Johnsbury coach Tom Forster, whose side lost to Hartford, 17-4, earlier in the week, said he thought his team played better Saturday but that it’s difficult to stop the lacrosse equivalent of a runaway train.

“Hartford is a lot better this year,” Forster said. “They’re getting every ground ball and all the draws. They’re passing really well and making good shot selections. Their clearing is great, and their riding game, where they put three or four girls on any person who’s trying to clear, is tough.

“That’s just something you can’t beat.”

Notes: So dry and stressed are the areas around the nets on Hartford’s Alumni Oval field that St. Johnsbury goaltender Clara Andre often came up with a stick head full of dirt and dust when she dug the ball out of her crease. The Hartford Fire Department watered the surface down on Thursday afternoon in advance of that night’s game with Vergennes. … Hartford said it’s apparent that girls lacrosse participation is down in Vermont this season. The Hurricanes have had three JV games canceled because opposing programs don’t have the numbers. … One of the day’s two referees noted that, after paying for gas, she now earns less than the hourly minimum wage to work games. … Rupp plans to play soccer at NCAA Division III Moravian College, a school of 2,000 students in Bethlehem, Pa. The institution also offers women’s lacrosse, and Hartford said she’s urged the Windsor resident to walk on in that sport. Moravian claims to be the sixth-oldest college or university in the U.S. and the first to admit women.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.




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