The Yellowjackets left their late-season struggles behind when playoffs began, taking advantage of home field for three drama-free victories to reach the final before a 3-1 title-game victory over U-32 earned the program its fifth state championship in eight years and its 13th overall.
Freshman Tatum Shappy scored the first goal in the Division II final at South Burlington H.S., then set up senior Caitlyn Dabagian for two more.
Shappy put Milton ahead after a corner kick from Taylor Quintin 10 minutes into the contest, then set up Dabagian four minutes into the second half for a 2-0 lead.
The No. 1 seed Raiders got back within one goal when they scored on a rebound with 10:37 remaining, but their comeback hopes were squashed 1:21 later when Dabagian scored on a breakaway after running on to a perfect through ball from Shappy.
As it had done all season, Milton’s defense was unbeatable in the final, led by Brooke Caragher. Freshman goalkeeper Madison North had to make just four saves for the win.
Milton was less dominant in the final two weeks of the regular season.
After winning seven in a row following a loss to Division I power Colchester (unbeaten in the regular season), the Yellowjackets lost a shocking 1-0 decision to a Vergennes team that managed only a 4-9-1 record. Another shutout, 2-0 at Middlebury, followed, and then Rice came to town for a night game and earned a 2-1 victory.
The losses dropped Milton out of first place in the Division II standings, but a 5-0 win over MVU helped right the ship, and the team hit another gear in the tournament with a 5-0 rout of No. 15 Fair Haven, a 4-1 victory over outmatched No. 7 Mill River, and a 4-2 semifinal win over Montpelier that was not as close as the score indicated.
The win over U-32 on October 31 in the championship game brought the Yellowjackets another odd-year crown, following titles in 2009, 2011 and 2013, along with a 2008 victory that started the recent string of success.
The boys soccer team was victimized by a tough draw after finishing seventh in the Division II regular-season standings. Milton challenged itself with a tough league schedule, playing three of its four non-league games against Division I schools, but four of its seven wins came against weak Missisquoi and Vergennes squads.
The Yellowjackets went into the tournament having lost three of five — with the wins over Vergennes and MVU by a combined 11-1 score — but overpowered visiting neighbor BFA-Fairfax in the opening round of the tournament, winning 5-1.
That set up a tough contest in Orleans against undefeated Lake Region, and the Rangers held on for a 4-3 victory to end Milton’s season.
A similar fate befell the football team, which earned its first trip to the Division II playoffs in three years with a Senior Night victory over Fair Haven but had the dubious honor of driving to Manchester to take on Burr & Burton Academy. The No. 1 seed Bulldogs had won a tight, 21-6 September game in Milton, but there was nothing close about the semifinal as B&B racked up a 54-14 win a week before knocking off Bellows Falls for its first-ever state championship.
Milton’s field hockey team didn’t give up more than three goals all season, but got off to a 1-3 start with a brutal opening schedule and then set out to see how many ties one team could rack up and managed to record draws in six of its remaining 10 matches.
Playoffs brought a second trip to Swanton to take on Missisquoi, whom the Yellowjackets had lost to 3-1 at home and tied 0-0 on the road during the regular season. In their tournament matchup, the teams played an uneventful first half, but MVU took a 1-0 lead into the break after scoring on its only shot of the first half and dominated the rest of the way. The Thunderbirds were held to three goals in the shutout win only thanks to a sensational defensive effort led by goalie Meredith Holbrook and defender Jessica Attig, who saved two goals with clears off the line, helping keep Milton in the game.
In cross country, Milton showed enormous potential with a mostly young squad that was the program’s largest in years. Sophomore Mike Ferro and freshman Angela Lazzaro led the Yellowjackets to sixth (boys) and seventh place in the state meet at Thetford Academy, with Lazzaro finishing ninth and Ferro 11th — one spot out of advancing to the New England Championships. Junior Ryan Joseph and senior Katie Rayner were second-fastest for the Milton teams in the state championships.