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The top-seeded Harwood Union girls' varsity field hockey team (13-1-3) defeated the third-seeded Otter Valley team on Saturday, November 6, to claim the second state championship title in the last three years.
"Every player on our team played like a champion," said head coach Heidi Hill, who also led the Highlanders to their championship in her first season as head coach in 2008.
"To come into a hugely intense, big-time environment like the finals at the UVM stadium, and have these players do exactly as the coaching staff asked, is so satisfying. We're just so excited to take home this championship, and I'm so proud of each and every player on our team. They all wanted this so badly, and it's really just amazing," she continued.
All-Star senior and tri-captain Sophie Lisaius got things rolling for the lady Highlanders as she scored a beautiful goal on a blazing shot taken from a penalty corner pass from fellow senior and tri-captain Sarah Reid.
Both Lisaius and Reid were sophomore members of the Harwood team that notched a perfect, undefeated season in which they captured the crown in 2008. Both girls played big roles in landing the title this year, ultimately earning them spots on the 2010 Vermont All-Star/Twin State game team.
Said Lisaius, "I can't tell you what a big deal this is for all of us. I thought winning it in 2008 was unbelievable, but to end up with the title in my senior year is just so, so special, and one couldn't ask for a happier ending!"
But Otter Valley wouldn't go away lightly, and they tied the game 1 to 1 minutes later on a ripping shot that snuck past standout senior and tri-captain net-minder Chelsea Delphia, who was also a starter on the 2008 championship team.
Then, Highlander freshman Katie Martin snapped the 1-1 deadlock at 19:06 of the first half on a rebound scramble goal in front, and the lady stickers never looked back. And, before the half ended, senior Sarah Reid drove home the insurance goal on a rebound in front of the Otter Valley net that had come from another well-earned penalty corner to put the Highlanders in the lead for good, 3 to 1.
As the second half unfolded, the Harwood team showed no signs of letting up, and they continued to play a very disciplined, well-positioned and defensive style of play, which kept Otter Valley from getting back into the game.
As the strong contingent of black-and-gold-clad Harwood Union faithful fans cheered them on in the chilly stadium, the clock slowly ticked away, and when the time finally ran out, Harwood had won it again for the second time in just three years.
Senior Sarah Reid said moments after the victory, "This is just an incredible team of girls that really loved each other, and we all wanted to win the championship so badly, and it's just really incredible that we pulled together and actually won it all. What a day for Harwood field hockey!"
Harwood girls' soccer makes history
On Saturday, November 6, the Harwood girls' soccer team made history. With a 1-0 win over Milton at Randolph High School in the finals, the girls earned the first-ever state championship in the program's history.
This was a magic run to the championship. Despite losing nine seniors from last year's team that lost to Milton in the finals in penalty kicks, this 2010 team never mentioned the word "rebuilding." With so many new players, including four freshmen in the starting lineup, this team came together at the right time in playoffs.
The run to the championship for the number-four seeded (9-4-1) Highlanders started with an impressive opening round win over number-13 Otter Valley on October 28. Led by sophomore scoring leader Laura Moore's three goals, Harwood went on to a 5-0 win. This allowed the team to host #5 Hartford on October 30 in the quarterfinal round. Once again, Laura Moore found the back of the net and despite the cold, wet and overall miserable weather conditions, the team held strong and held on for the 1-0 win.
With this win, it was on to rival Montpelier. In a rematch of last year's semi-final, Harwood was up against the number-one overall seed and undefeated Montpelier Solons. Going into the match on November 3, Harwood embraced being the underdog and with a stingy defense, huge goalkeeping from Ashley Pitrowiski and little luck, they headed into halftime scoreless.
Then, with just under 17 to go in the match, Laura Moore scored her fifth goal of the playoffs (21st of the season) on an assist from junior midfielder Liza Mackey. The girls battled and held off a relentless attack from Montpelier in the final minutes and as the buzzer sounded, their first huge upset complete, they were onto the championship match for the second year in a row.
The playoff magic road led to Randolph High School on November 6 versus the number-two seeded Milton Yellowjackets, the same team that beat Harwood in last year's finals match in penalty kicks and who entered the match with a 16-1 record. For the second match in a row, Harwood entered as the lower seed and a team that was not expected to win. The girls once again embraced this and made the most of their opportunities. In the first 10 minutes, Milton came out strong and dominated play and controlled the match.
However, the score remained tied at zero and in the 16th minute, freshman Anna Bauer served a tremendous ball and found a streaking Liza Mackey in behind the defensive who beat the goalkeeper and a defender to the ball and buried it in the back of the net. This electrified the Harwood fans who outnumbered their opposing fans 3-1. For the remainder of the match, which seemed forever, the Highlanders held strong and found ways to hold off a surging Milton attack. Ashley Pitrowiski had the match of her career with huge saves and leadership.
The back line of freshmen -- Amy Graham, Haley Cleary, Anna Bauer and junior Anna Hofmann -- absorbed the pressure but didn't break. The one or two times it did, Pitrowiski came up with a big save or Cleary broke up a breakaway. As the minutes slowly passed by, the anticipation from players and fans became unnerving. In the last 10 minutes as Harwood continued to clear the ball out of their half, the sense of "it" actually happening started to take shape. As the ball was cleared one more time and players and fans started counting down the final seconds, the final buzzer finally sounded and pandemonium erupted. It happened; the Highlanders finally won a championship.
Coach Jon Hammond, completing his 11th season with the program, stated, "This championship is something special, not just for this season's players but for everyone involved in the program and the broader Harwood community. The support showed towards his program is unmatched and is what makes being part of this program so rewarding. Seeing the faces of former players, parents, young girls who wanted to be part of this, family and friends shows what this championship has really done. The girls on this team proved that heart really can win over talent and athleticism. More importantly, they proved what it really means to believe!"