Going to the 'ship: BBA tops Rice, clinches spot in title game

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MANCHESTER — A state championship is what every high school athlete wants a chance to achieve.

It's the light at the end of the tunnel and the validation of hard work put in through a grind of a season.

The Burr and Burton girls lacrosse team will get its shot to bring home that hardware, as the No. 2 seed Bulldogs topped No. 3 Rice 18-10 Wednesday afternoon, clinching a spot in the Division I state championship game on Saturday.

In order to call itself champions, BBA will have to go through undefeated, No. 1 South Burlington to get there.

The Bulldogs have had this end goal in mind all season long, and with the opportunity just a few days away, the group is ready for the challenge.

"I don't even know if it's fully set in yet," said second-year BBA coach Jamie Blake. "We've talked about earning every single day and earning every minute, so we can earn our tomorrow. I feel like we match up better against South Burlington than we would have against Rutland."

Teams want to play their best lacrosse at the end of the season, where the games matter the most, and the Bulldogs have done that. In two D-1 playoff games, BBA has outscored opponents 34-18.

"We are sincerely peaking. This is two games in a row, where we've held opponents at 10 goals or less and we've put up more goals than we've put up all season," Blake said. "We're heading in the right direction and the trust and belief they have in each other, they are really starting to own. They're having fun with it and that was never more evident than a game like today against a very good Rice team."

All season long, BBA has been at its best when it can jump on an opponent early and spread out the scoring among its many capable options.

The Bulldogs did just that against the Green Knights.

Olivia Watanabe scored 40 seconds into play, and following a Rice goal by Hadley Murphy, Julia Fillion and Alair Powers tallied one apiece for BBA.

The Green Knights kept the game close early on, only down 4-3 midway through the first half, but a 5-0 run by the Bulldogs from there put BBA well in control.

Many of those goals during that run, and throughout the game, were created by strong ball movement by the Bulldogs. BBA seamlessly strung together a handful of passes on a lot those possessions to create chances around the goal.

"We've been working ball movement and working cutters to change the point of attack," Blake said. "We're looking first to feed. Every single catch is a look to the inside and today they were two and three steps ahead of everything. They were ready to go out there and light it up."

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Rice battled back a bit from the mid first-half hole, but the Bulldogs went into the half still leading by four goals.

Out of the halftime break, the teams traded goals. Audrey Anglum tallied the first BBA goal of the half and Rice's Lisa McNamara scored one soon after.

From there, another run for the Bulldogs really put the game out of reach. Four straight goals from BBA took the lead to eight goals, and despite some late goals from the Green Knights, the Bulldogs were always quick to answer.

The usual goal-scoring suspects of Watanabe and Fillion did their job scoring three apiece, but a lot of girls contributed in a big way for BBA.

Freshman Tatum Sands led the team with four goals. Audrey Anglum scored three, while Hannah Dworkin and Alair Powers both had two tallies.

Senior Ava Marshall had the remaining the Bulldog goal.

A major key for the Bulldogs coming in to Wednesday's game was keeping Rice seniors Lisa McNamara and Hadley Murphy in check. Both girls are quick in transition and can easily put the ball in the back of the net with their great stick work.

Murphy scored four and McNamara scored three, but BBA did a nice job, especially on McNamara, making sure the pair didn't have easy chances to score.

"If we could keep them out of transition and force them to settle, that's a strength for us," Blake said. "Those are two kids that are dangerous, whether they get the ball in their own eight-meter or in our eight-meter. They are going to drive to the net whenever they get the ball. For two days, we've been working on prioritizing them all over the field."

BBA goalie Cassie Pearce once again stepped up in a big way for the Bulldogs to clinch their spot in the title game. She made 15 saves and was great all game long on her clearances to jump start the BBA attack.

"Cassie kept her mentality the entire way and didn't have any let downs," Blake said. "The catch and the clear, no team is ready for her to clear that fast to the 35 or to the 50. We're on our way when she does that."

The Bulldogs join the BBA boys lacrosse team, who will play for a state title against CVU at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Saturday's championship contest between BBA and South Burlington is set for 2 p.m. at the University of Vermont

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


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