SOUTH BURLINGTON — Looking to set the tone early on in the Division II championship game last Saturday, Milton sophomore Tatum Shappy fired a shot on net less than five minutes into the game from 25 yards out.
The rocket bounced off the Montpelier goalie’s hands and in to give the top-seeded Yellowjackets an early 1-0 lead, and that was all the Yellowjackets needed for the girls soccer program’s 14th state championship and second in a row.
Milton’s defense and goalkeeper Madison North stepped up in a big way on the artificial turf field at South Burlington High School to shut down the No. 6 Solons’ attack and finish the championship run with a 1-0 victory.
The No. 1 seed Yellowjackets (15-2-1) needed just four saves from North to earn their seventh consecutive shutout and 12th of the season. Milton allowed three goals each in its second and third games this fall, then yielded just four in the remaining 15 matches.
“Coming in today, I figured there was a good chance it was going to be a 1-0 game,” Milton coach Cory Payson said. “[Montpelier] has played great defense all year and haven’t let up a lot of goals. We got that one quick goal, which I think took their keeper by surprise, and we defended enough to keep them out of the 18 for the most part and get the win.”
It was the Yellowjackets’ sixth title since the 2008 season and their second in a row, as they continue to stay on top of Division II.
“This is an indescribable feeling right now,” junior captain Brooke Caragher said. “We knew Montpelier would be a tough team and came in with a mindset it was going to be a close game. I think the first goal from Tatum really set the tone early for us.”
It was the second straight time Shappy tallied the game-winning goal. Last Wednesday, she scored the deciding goal in a nail-biting semifinal 1-0 win over U-32 in the second overtime.
Taylor Quintin set up the game’s only goal for the second straight time. She took the ball down the sideline to spread out the defense and sent it to the middle, where Shappy was all alone. The sophomore didn’t hesitate and took a low shot that slipped through the grasp of Montpelier goalkeeper Allison Chadwick (five saves) and into the net for the lead and early momentum just 4:25 in.
“I didn’t really know what to do from that far out when I first got it over,” Shappy said. “I think we got more aggressive after we scored and got amped up from there.”
North made four saves and had some help from Caragher, fellow junior Haley Raftery and the rest of the defense on the way to the team’s 12th shutout of the season.
The team also had strong midfield play by Shappy, Kaleigh Goulette, Carlie Reen, Quintin and others in what proved to be a game played largely between the 18s.
“[North] has been really steady for a sophomore, and I have seen a lot of growth in her maturity to go along with her skill and physical attributes,” Payson said. “If you are going to beat her, it’s going to have to be a good shot. And she does a great job communicating with the defense.
“We haven’t given up a lot of goals the past couple of months and the back line, midfielders and forwards all really did a good job,” he continued. “We went to four midfielders today in the second half, and I told our other coaches that the rest of the game was going to be played 18-to-18.”
It was a similar game to the semifinal against the Raiders, a defensive battle in which Shappy’s goal was again the difference.
“The U-32 game definitely got us ready for the competition we were facing today,” Caragher said. “I think it really pushed us and prepared us for today.”
Montpelier had its chances, particularly in the second half with some nice pressure looking for the equalizer.
Ten minutes into the second half, the Solons looked energized, and a nice cross into the box was sent over the crossbar on their best chance of the game. Midway through the half, Montpelier had back-to-back corner kicks but wasn’t able to do anything with the opportunity after North caught the second corner out of the air and cleared to avoid any more pressure.
Milton regained momentum and stayed in its offensive zone for the last 10 minutes to take down Montpelier in the postseason for the third season in a row.
“I thought we played a tremendous game today,” Montpelier coach John Dellipriscoli said. “At the end of this match, I can’t feel too disappointed because we played the game like we wanted to play. That’s soccer sometimes, and in the second half we started to play with more urgency going forward and created a number of chances toward the end.”
It was a tough way for the Solons to go out, but Dellipriscoli was happy with the way his team – which lost its top returning goal-scorer to a season-ending injury before its first game – never gave up after the early goal. He is confident in the program’s chances to have another season with a number of returning players.
“Making this run was great for this team and the program,” he said. “We expected to be here, and they worked hard to do it. There is no shame losing to a Milton team as talented as that.”
The Yellowjackets are set up well themselves, graduating only four seniors – co-captain Carlie Reen, Carol Fagan, Quintin and Spaniard Aina Alucbierre – while returning their leading scorer, a good portion of their backfield and North.
“The past couple of years have been amazing with this group of girls,” Payson said. “I thought going into this year we had a great shot at getting back here. I thought we exceeded peoples’ expectations early on and came out of the gate strong.
“We will certainly miss the seniors and foreign exchange students, and we have 14 players coming back to try keep that tradition going.”