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VPA D-II girls lacrosse: Hartford falls a game short of finals

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 6/9/2021 10:08:16 PM
Modified: 6/9/2021 10:08:19 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Only 34.5 seconds stood between the Hartford High girls lacrosse team and a trip to the state championship when Sophia Shippee scored two quick goals, lifting St. Johnsbury over the Hurricanes, 11-10.

Wednesday’s VPA Division II semifinal was a back-and-forth contest between top-seeded Hartford (16-2) and No. 4 St. Johnsbury, which will play Green Mountain Valley or Vergennes in the finals.

The hosts extended their lead to 10-8 when Addie Cadwell scored on an assist from Jasmine Jenkins with 11:29 left in the game. The swift counterattack gave Hartford breathing room, but only momentarily, as Shippee (four goals) scored on a ground ball 1:32 later.

St. Jay’s Maren Tierney nearly tied the game after intercepting a pass in front of the Hurricanes’ net but goalie Bailey Cameron (eight saves) blocked both of her point-blank shots.

The Hurricanes, who advanced to the semifinals in each of their last three seasons, began stalling with about 3:30 remaining. The long, controlled possession ended with an errant pass.

“We had to go red, which meant we had to pressure them and try to take the ball away,” said Hilltoppers coach Tom Forster. “Finally, we made them make a mistake, and that opened things up. We got it up to (attacker) Maren Tierney and then went from there.”

Tierney (four goals) found Shippee, who drew a foul and converted the ensuing free position. The sophomore then struck again on another restart 30 seconds later, leaving Hartford players and fans stunned.

“I think everyone’s really in shock right now because we were going into this thinking that we had a good chance at this,” said senior captain Ryelee Potwin. “But things don’t always play out.”

Hurricanes coach Heather Hartford addressed the game’s final minute during an interview outside the home locker room.

“We had the one-goal lead and said, ‘You know what? Let’s hang on to it and run the clock a little bit,’ ” Hartford said. “And if the opportunity was there for a high-percentage shot, go to net, but otherwise control the ball, slow the pace down, let your defense get a little rest, so that’s what we tried to do.”

The Canes, who defeated the Hilltoppers, 18-7, on April 20, opened up a 5-2 lead in the first half. The score was tied 7-7 at halftime.

Cadwell, the team’s only freshman, led Hartford with three goals. The skilled attacker attends Thetford Academy, which is one of the five schools represented on the Hurricanes’ roster. Ella Perreault (White River Valley), Elliot Rupp (Windsor) and Abigail Gross (Sharon Academy) also utilized the VPA’s member-to-member program in order to play for the Hurricanes.

“They’re great additions to the team,” Hartford said. “We’re thrilled to have them, super-coachable kids.”

Hartford also got goals from Chloe Jensen (two), Sophie Howe, Zoe Pfeiffer, Caroline Hamilton, Rupp and Jenkins.

Pfeiffer, the school’s record holder with more than 150 career goals, was a focal point for the Hilltoppers.

“We tried to face-guard her the whole game, and I think we did slow her down,” Forster said. “That girl had like seven goals in the first game (between the two teams).”

“I just told them not to hang their heads,” Hartford said. “You had two very talented lacrosse teams coming together head-to-head in the semifinals of the state tournament, and we knew it was going to be hard-fought both ways, and back-and-forth; a great lacrosse game, which is what it turned out to be.”

The Hurricanes graduate Jenkins, Potwin, Gross, Cameron, Pfeiffer, Davan Murphy and Reilly Slusser.

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