Otters are dominant force in D-II, looking to make a deep run in playoffs
By RUSSELL JONES
BRANDON — The Otter Valley field hockey team finished their regular season the same way they began it, with a win over Brattleboro. Saturday’s game saw the 11-1 Otters hosting a 4-9 Colonel’s team in Brandon.
Alia Edmunds had three goals and Brittney Jackson scored twice to lead the Otters in the 7-1 win. Ryleigh LaPorte notched one of her own off an Edmunds assist and Morgan LaPorte also added an unassisted goal. Brattleboro’s Rosie Carrigan had the Colonel’s only goal.
The win takes the Otters to 11-2 and they will take the top seed into the Div. II tournament. Otters coach Stacey Edmunds said her team is focused and knows that the energy her girls bring to the field makes all the difference.
“Like most teams, we have had to work out some kinks throughout the season,” Edmunds said. “We went through a stretch of inconsistency, which was frustrating for all of us because we knew we were capable of more. The girls, led by our five seniors, committed to readjusting mentally, pushing harder in practice and finishing stronger.”
And finish strong they did. By the time they take the field for their first playoff game on Friday, Oct. 25, their last loss will be a month, eight games, in the past.
Much of their success this season comes from the strong play of senior Ellie Ross, who Edmunds called “incredibly important” to the team, in goal. The Otters have only given up 13 goals in their 13 games this season.
“We have complete faith in her abilities in the cage, and for good reason,” she said. “She works as hard in practice as she does in a game and takes her role very seriously.”
“She never, ever gives up on a ball and she is as good with her stick and hands as she is with her feet,” Edmunds added. “She is a truly accomplished goalie and has certainly been a key factor in our success this season. Over the past three years she has nearly an 80 percent save average.”
As impressive as that is, Edmunds said that Ross can change a game with one remarkable save. The Otters are also fortunate to have several players with scoring capabilities. Alia Edmunds has a remarkable 26 goals on the season and an equally impressive 15 assists.
“Alia has an excellent field sense and contributes significantly to our offense through scoring and play design,” said her coach and mother.
On the wing, Brittney Jackson has been dynamite for the Otters offense with 18 goals.
“Brittney uses her speed and stick skills to move the ball up the field, and get herself to post, where we want her,” said Edmunds. “She has been deadly there, picking up most of her goals on post. A sophomore with this kind of finish is one to watch. She is going to shine.”
The two play well together, not only because of their own styles, but also because of their positions and responsibilities, according to Edmunds, and there is a great deal of trust between them.
Other important factors to the Otters success this season are their speed and the defensive backfield has been like an iron curtain.
“Livia Bernhardt, Jadynn Pope and Marissa Connors have protected our circle with heart and determination,” Edmunds said. “They know their role well and are the communicators on the field, along with Ellie. They have upped their game in the past few weeks and we are so excited to see them show just how tough they can be.”
They will need that strength as they move on in a D-II tournament against teams that are surging at the right time. Their first playoff game will come against either St. Johnsbury or U-32, two teams that collectively had one loss in their last eight games.
“Any high school coach will tell you that keeping student athletes motivated and focused can be challenging,” she said. “While the seniors have had a leadership role, I see the entire team as focused on what lies ahead.
“At this stage, they all know they are in it together and it will take a true team to make it to the end,” Edmunds continued. “I have believed in this team since August, but it took them some time to get to the same place. I am confident they now see what I have seen all along and that is pretty powerful.”