Arlington advances to D-IV state title game
ARLINGTON — During a mid-season trip to Dorset, it appeared Arlington girls soccer midfielder Gillian Calkins' season was over.
A hard tackle against Long Trail took the senior down and Calkins wasn't getting up. There was a severe injury to her ankle and quickly, an ambulance was called to the school to take her to a local medical facility.
In that moment, there was very little expectation she could make a return, but return she did late in the season. Wednesday, against those same Mountain Lions, in the Division IV state semifinals, she emphatically provided the stamp that she's back, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 Arlington win.
The win pushes the Eagles into the D-IV state championship game for the second straight season, where they will meet No. 1 seed Proctor in a rematch of last year's final.
The Phantoms were 2-1 winners against West Rutland in the other semifinal Wednesday.
On the lone goal Wednesday, Calkins received a beautiful pass from teammate Haley Mattison to the far side of the goal with about 12 to play in the first half. Calkins quickly settled the ball on her foot and took a strike that beat Emery Letendre and sent her teammates into a frenzy of excitement.
After all Calkins went through to get back, Arlington coach Aaron Wood could not be more proud of the senior in that moment.
"With a team like ours, when everyone thinks Tess (Belnap) is going to score and if she doesn't then Haley (Mattison) is going to score, to have a senior step up and score the game winner in the semifinal is great," Wood said. "Not just that, but a senior who when she injured her ankle on Long Trail's field and was told she wouldn't play again. For her to score the game winner today, I gave her the girl of the game plaque."
From Mattison's pass to Calkins' run, the whole play game together perfectly for Arlington.
"(Gillian) made the right run and Haley made a great pass and Gillian finished just how we work on in practice. That was really nice," Wood said.
The Eagles took control of the game right out of the gate and almost all of the first half was played in the Long Trail zone. Arlington had a few near misses in the first half. There was a hard direct shot that Letendre handled nicely and another great ball, where Tess Belnap took the ball into the box and made a perfect pass on the ground far post, but nobody was there to finish it.
Belnap had another great chance in the second half where she got on a breakaway into the box and opted for a light strike to the far side post. Letendre couldn't get to the ball, but it trickled just right of the post.
The Mountain Lions did a great job keeping Belnap and Haley Mattison in check throughout the game. They didn't allow for many long runs for the Eagles' star forwards and made them dribble with their less dominant leg.
From the first whistle, it was clear Long Trail would have to play a defensive game to compete with Arlington and for the most part, they did just that.
"We had nothing to lose. We had to come out and win every ball," said Mountain Lions coach Kevin Murphy. "They gave them more than Arlington wanted. We marked Tess and Haley, so we didn't have a lot of offense and that was by design."
"They did a really nice job stacking the box. They had everyone, except one girl getting back in to cut down our scoring opportunities," Wood said. "Long Trail had a nice defensive gameplan."
Long Trail evened up possession some in the second half, but once again, its need to contain on defense didn't allow for too many offensive runs in the Arlington zone.
Arlington took 18 shots compared to the Mountain Lions' four and Eagles keeper Shaana Staab didn't have too much action with a just pair of saves.
Now, Arlington sets its sights on Saturday in Bellows Falls and the rubber match with Proctor. Each team won each other's soil during the regular season.
For the Eagles, it isn't enough to just make the state title game again. Winning it is all that matters to them.
"For this group, we have said since day one that anything short of a state championship is not a success," Wood said. "We're focused on that end goal. We have one more game and we have to win that one."
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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