Chase’s overtime goal lifts CVU over MMU in D-I field hockey semifinals

SOUTH BURLINGTON – The intermittent rain showers had stopped and a break in the clouds followed, offering a colorful backdrop for the start of overtime between Champlain Valley and Mount Mansfield.

A bright rainbow appeared, its arc extending behind Munson Field.

“I saw it … and then it was gone and I thought maybe that was a sign,” CVU’s Lena Ashooh said. “I thought, ‘What a crazy thing, it has to be mean something.'”

In a year of uncertainty, in a year without normalcy because of COVID-19, Ashooh interpreted the illuminated sky, as brief as it was, as a positive for her and her CVU teammates.

Despite a scoreless 60 minutes of regulation in which they dominated thoroughly, the Redhawks weren’t about to let their season fade away like the rainbow above them.

Ashooh and Hailey Chase, CVU’s co-captains, saw to that.

Ashooh forced the turnover to start the transition and Chase popped in the winning goal with 2:35 left in the second OT period, pushing third-seeded CVU to a 1-0 triumph over No. 7 Mount Mansfield in a Division I high school field hockey semifinal on Wednesday.

The Redhawks (10-1) will square off against No. 1 Bellows Falls, a 4-3 winner over South Burlington in the other semifinal, in Saturday’s D-I championship game. 

“We knew this wasn’t going to be our last game, it couldn’t be,” Chase said.

But it nearly was, largely due to MMU goalie Marcelle Barber and a fearless group of defenders. CVU produced wave after wave of quality chances, and the Barber-led Cougars denied those charges at every turn for 75-plus minutes.

CVU amassed decisive edges in shots on net (15-3) and penalty corners (16-3), but couldn’t solve Barber, who doled out a similar performance in last year’s semifinal loss to Rice, also a 1-0 overtime affair.

“I want to give MMU huge props — that was an awesome game,” CVU coach Tucker Pierson said. “They played out of their minds defensively and their goalie is incredible.”

The sophomore Barber’s saves came in a variety of ways — kick and pad stops, cutting off angles, pushing aside deflections and absorbing a few shots to the mid-section.

Mount Mansfield’s Ella Agran (15) and goalie Marcelle Barber team up to make a save during a Division I high school field hockey semifinal game in South Burlington on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020.

Meanwhile, Bella Gulizio and Ella Agran helped to anchor in front of Barber, stuffing MMU’s defensive circle to limit CVU looks.

“It’s been our thing, defend to attack and the last couple games have been fantastic back there,” said longtime MMU coach Paige Manning, whose Cougars upset No. 2 Essex last weekend.

In the second overtime, MMU had its best chance to knock off another high seed when Hannah Burrington slipped behind CVU’s defense, but her shot was kicked away by CVU goalie Marina Schmidt.

Four minutes later, Ashooh forced the issue to set up the winning sequence.

Snagging the  at midfield, Ashooh pushed possession down the left side for Mackenzie Marcus, who dribbled to the end line, cut back and tossed a shot on net. The rebound went to Chase, who lifted a low shot to the right corner, out of the reach of Barber.

“I’ve had faith in Mackenzie and Hailey throughout the season and throughout the game — one of these times it has to go in,” Ashooh said.

Said Chase: “I was happy for it to be over. I’m really glad we were able to pull through.”

Champlain Valley’s Hailey Chase (center) reacts after scoring the game-winning goal in double overtime of a Division I high school field hockey semifinal game in South Burlington on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020.

A year after losing at this stage of the tournament, the Redhawks finds themselves in their eighth title game since 2008.

“They have fire, they have heart and soul, but they are patient,” Pierson said. “They are a team, no superstars — it’s lovely.”

For the Cougars (3-6), they left South Burlington with their heads high, Manning said.

“I told them, ‘This is what a championship game looks like,'” Manning said. “They know what kind of game they played today. It’s never easy not to come out with the ‘W’ but, at the same, it was a battle and somebody had to come out on top.”

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Contact Alex Abrami at 660-1848 or aabrami@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @aabrami5.