When it came to the state championship, Windsor never gave Stowe High a chance.
Windsor was top-ranked in Division 3 field hockey and Stowe was seeded second. But on Saturday in the title game, played at the University of Vermont, it turned out there was a big difference between No. 1 and No. 2.
Windsor took firm control of the game in the first half and, after bending a little in the second, exploited holes in Stowe’s defense to clinch the title, 3-0. Stowe finished second for the eight time in the last nine years.
Stowe had rolled through the playoffs, beating Springfield 2-0 in the quarterfinals and Lyndon 3-0 in the semifinals. With two postseason shutouts under its belt, Stowe felt confident about the championship game.
Stowe beat No. 1 Windsor in a 2017 semifinal game, winning 3-2 in double overtime. Ali Vigneau, now Stowe’s head coach, was the assistant coach back then.
“We’ve always known Windsor was going to be a tough game,” Vigneau said. “We never play them (during the regular season), but we always hear about them.”
“They’re both aggressive teams,” Vigneau said before the game started. “It’s going to be a fast game.”
And it was. The Raiders spent most of the first half defending against Windsor offensive thrusts. They had some chances of their own, with charges led by Natalie Doehla and a recovery push from Abbie Rice and Mackie Eagan, but Windsor held the edge.
Fifteen minutes in, Windsor’s Hannah Wood fired a shot that tipped the ball off the boot of Stowe goalie Andrea Jackman, arched high, and fell into the goal.
A minute later, Jackman was rushed again, but made the save.
Vigneau called a timeout and exhorted the team to match Windsor’s offensive intensity. Doehla, Eagan and Madison Fountain responded strongly, but couldn’t break through Windsor’s defense.
Windsor led only 1-0 at halftime, but it was clear that Windsor was controlling the field. The Stowe team huddled near the goal during the break, and “the girls looked at me and they said, ‘We’re not out of this,’” Vigneau said.
The second half was indeed a different game, but the score never moved in Stowe’s favor.
The Raiders kept Windsor in its end of the field for most of the second half, but mounted strategic breakouts. Four minutes into the game, Alyssa Slocum scored to put Windsor ahead 2-0, and 10 minutes later Angalina Bigwood found a hole in the Stowe defense and made it 3-0.
Stowe had some chances — a corner with 12 minutes left, and another three and a half minutes later — but couldn't convert.
When Windsor called a timeout with just seven minutes on the clock, the Stowe players gathered around their coach.
“Don’t let up,” Vigneau told them. “You’re playing an unbelievable game.”
Stowe continued to battle, but couldn’t score.
“That’s what happens when two talented teams play. One of them is going to lose,” Vigneau said.
“I know it sucks,” Vigneau told her players. “This is a hard feeling, but they were a good team. “Be proud of yourselves.”
Stowe ended the season 13-4, No. 2 in Division 3.
Stowe 3, Lyndon 0 in state semifinals
Second-ranked Stowe got two goals from Abbie Fountain and another from Abbie Rice to beat No. 3 Lyndon, 3-0, in the Division 3 field hockey semifinals last week.
Lyndon had beaten Stowe 1-0 in overtime earlier in the season.
The win sent Stowe on to its third straight D-3 title game, where it lost to No. 1 Windsor 3-0.
Rice scored her goal in the first half, and Fountain scored twice after the break. Starting in goal for the first time in her career, Stowe freshman Abbey Casavant made one save in the shutout win.
Goalie Olivia Hudson made four saves for Lyndon, which finished the season 9-5-2.
— Andrew Martin