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Thetford Girls Corner Vergennes for Second Straight Soccer Title

  • Kiana Johnson, of Thetford, center, celebrates with teammates, from left, Madi Powers, Emi Vaughan, Namya Benjamin, and Ellen Veracka, after scoring the first goal of their VPA Division 3 Championship with Vergennes Union at Randolph Union High School in Randolph, Vt., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Thetford won 2-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Madi Powers, of Thetford Academy, right, tries to steal from Morgan Lynk, of Vergennes Union, during the VPA Division 3 Championship at Randolph Union High School in Randolph, Vt., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Thetford won 2-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thetford Academy Head Coach Dave Williams, right, and Assistant Ted MacVeagh, left, watch the final minutes of the VPA Division 3 Championship with Vergennes Union at Randolph Union High School in Randolph, Vt., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Thetford won 2-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, November 04, 2018

Randolph — The Vergennes Union High girls soccer team did its best to neutralize Thetford Academy forward Casey MacVeagh during Saturday’s VPA Division III championship game.

The Commodores may have held MacVeagh in check during the run of play, but they were susceptible to set-piece prowess. The junior served up nine corner kicks on Saturday, a pair of which were converted for goals in a 2-1 victory at Randolph Union High.

No. 1 Thetford (15-1-1) claimed its second consecutive championship, two years after claiming runner-up honors.

The Panthers have been focused on reaching a third straight title game since Day 1 of the preseason.

“I definitely came in expecting to get to the championship game,” said MacVeagh, who led the Panthers with 27 points (14 goals) overall. “I knew that we would have to fight really hard together, but we all really wanted to return here because we’ve been here the past two years, and it was really great to manage to do that.”

No. 6 Vergennes (9-6-2) effectively withstood the defending champs until one of MacVeagh’s lofty corners connected with Kiana Johnson’s head in front of the Commodores’ goal line with 1:11 remaining in the first half.

Johnson’s goal was a momentum gain for a squad that had mostly controlled first-half play.

The second half, which featured intermittent periods of rain, remained tight until MacVeagh delivered on another well-executed corner kick. The pass landed in the middle of a pack where it was shot by Madi Powers and blocked before Namya Benjamin kicked it into the net. Benjamin’s shot careened off the right post on its way past Vergennes keeper Kate Gosliga (five saves).

Thetford’s insurance goal proved to be much needed on account of the slippery conditions. When Panthers goalie Emma Berard (six saves) went to the ground to make a fairly routine pickup with 18:40 remaining in the game, it slipped out of her grasp and to the feet of Maria Malaney, who scored for the Commodores.

The Panthers quickly regrouped, however, ensuring the unlucky goal wouldn’t serve as a turning point for their opponents.

“I think we got a little panicked,” Thetford sweeper Grace Davis said. “But Lily Brown, our stopper, told everyone that we needed to keep working together to finish and that we can finish strong together.”

The defense responded by locking up Vergennes down the home stretch, then claiming their championship trophy and key chains before the stroke of noon.

“It feels really nice to not have to worry about anything, to know that we won the championship,” Davis said. “We got as far as we could.”

Although she’s a senior, Johnson played in her first soccer championship on Saturday. The Panthers’ starting center midfielder is a transfer from Chelsea High, which closed its doors in June. The three-sport athlete considered both Williamstown and Thetford as possible places to complete her studies.

“I really loved the environment at Thetford,” Johnson said. “They just welcomed (Johnson and fellow soccer players, Emma Colby and Jake Colby) with open arms and wanted us no matter what. They love to have new people and they welcomed us. I think that overall, that’s what made me come here.”

Johnson — who won a lacrosse championship with the Red Devils as a freshman, but never went beyond the quarterfinals in soccer or basketball — helped the Panthers remain atop D-III.

“Well for one thing, she brings a lot of positive energy,” MacVeagh said. “She’s always encouraging to everyone. But also she’s really aggressive and she’s nice to have on the field.”

Thetford, which defeated Winooski, Stowe and Peoples en route to its second straight title, looks to be in great shape for next year. The current junior class is strong, including Lily MacVeagh, who was injured after two games this season and Sophie Williams, who is studying abroad in Africa.

“We missed Lily and Sophie for sure, but I mean, the girls who filled in, who stepped up were just awesome,” Thetford coach Dave Williams said. “Madi (Powers) as a freshman at the midfield, Ellen (Veracka) moving into the middle and (Johnson) coming from Chelsea. Their contributions were just huge; they just took the opportunity and ran with it.”