Defense keys BBA in win over rival MAU

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BENNINGTON — The Burr and Burton girls lacrosse team has multiple players that can put the ball in the back of the net, but it's just as important for the Bulldogs to stop the opposing team from doing the same.

Luckily for BBA, its defensive group is just as strong and it showed Tuesday afternoon in its 11-6 win against rival Mount Anthony at Taylor Field.

"Our defense is definitely strong all around. We've been really focusing on the details, on how to knock down passes and play 1-on-1," said Bulldogs coach Jamie Blake. "Our kids are really eating that up and our kids thriving off of it. It was very evident today with the amount of knock downs and pure interceptions that we had. Their patience with it is proving to be helpful."

All game long, BBA forced MAU into mistakes and the Bulldogs quickly took advantage. Julia Fillion had six forced turnovers, Charleigh Carthy and Tatum Sands both had five, while Olivia Watanabe had four of her own.

The Bulldogs' defensive effort stifled many Patriot offensive chances early in the first half. They turned them into offensive opportunities, as Watanabe scored on a second-chance opportunity for the first goal and then Sands, a freshman, scored two of her own to put the Bulldogs up 3-0.

Sands is already a starting midfielder for BBA, even though she's just a ninth-grader, and Blake expects a lot out of the talented youngster.

"Tatum Sands is a talented, all-around player," Blake said. "She had a handful of caused turnovers, a handful of ground balls and draw controls. She's playing well all over the field and we expect a lot out of our freshmen. It's great to see her start to thrive and get comfortable on the varsity field."

BBA was up 4-0 before Caroline Musinski put MAU on the board. The Patriots had a strong effort late in the half to keep the game close heading into the break. Following the Musinski goal, and a tally from Fillion for BBA, Taylor Andrews scored on a penalty-shot opportunity after Bulldogs goalie Cassie Pearce was called for a penalty. Andrews scored again with about two minutes left in the half to make it 5-3 at halftime.

It took a while for MAU to adjust to how BBA was playing, but the Patriots felt like they played well once they got into their game, especially on the defensive end.

"We had to figure some things out at the start of the game," said MAU co-coach Whitney Brooks. "We started out face-guarding Olivia [Watanabe] and that wasn't working, so once we stopped doing that and we put pressure on them on defense, it seemed to fluster them, so we continued to do that."

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While the Patriots had the momentum heading into the break, three quick goals to begin the second half — one each by Fillion, Ava Marshall and Watanabe — put the Bulldogs up by five and that was too much of a hill to climb for MAU.

After the fourth goal from Watanabe to put BBA up 10-4, the Patriots swung back the momentum to their side. They put a ton of pressure on the Bulldogs' defense with some great drives toward the net. Pearce was well up to the task in the net though and she thwarted a handful of chances in short order.

"Cassie Pearce came up absolutely huge today. Once MAU started to gain some momentum and could start to drive in a comeback, Cassie just said 'no.'" Blake said. "MAU really carried the momentum near the end of both halves. Those big saves and her coming out of her crease and making people think twice about shooting is helpful."

Pearce made eight saves on the day. Her counterpart, Mia Schneeberger, had seven stops for MAU.

Olivia Elmer and Avery Galle both scored for the Patriots late in the contest, but it was too little, too late to make a comeback.

"It was good for our team to see for our team that we could do that," said MAU co-coach Emily Cross of the late effort. "Our re-defending was awesome and it was on point today and it showed what we're capable of."

MAU fell to 0-2 with the loss, following a loss to Rutland to start the year last Friday, but even though they are winless, playing two of their tougher opponents to start the year is a great test for the group.

"We were really resilient today. We played 110 percent [until] the buzzer went off," Cross said. "I'm proud of my girls. Like we said in our huddle, our goal is to get better every day and we got better today, so that's all we can ask for."

The Patriots play Mount Greylock at home Friday afternoon at 4:15 p.m.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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