*Photos below story*
By ANTHONY LABOR JR.
Saturday night’s girls soccer opener between BFA-St. Albans and Milton seemed like anything but their first game of the season.
With a large crowd on hand under the lights at Collins-Perley, both teams showed signs of solid play throughout a game that ended up going to overtime.
In the end, freshman Emma Wennar scored her second goal of the night midway through the first overtime period to lead the Yellowjackets to a 2-1 victory.
“I thought we had really good composure out there today even when things weren’t working exactly like we wanted,” said Milton coach Shawntel Burke. “We were playing the long ball for a while, but we had to change it up and start getting the through ball going to use our speed up front.”
After each team tallied in the first half, neither could capitalize on opportunities throughout the second half with Milton having the advantage in scoring opportunities.
In overtime, Wennar used her speed down the sideline and dribbled into the box, where she fired a shot through traffic that slipped just inside the near post to give the Yellowjackets the 2-1 victory.
Wennar, a freshman, brings another playmaker to the team to play along with senior Tatum Shappy, who has been a key piece of Milton’s run to three championships in a row.
“Tatum and Emma both complement each other so well out there on the field,” said Burke. “They have speed, great footwork, and they are both fantastic players that play off well with each other.”
Milton had the better opportunities in the second half to put the game away before overtime, but were on the wrong side of a couple post shots that kept the game tied.
BFA goalkeeper Shelby Lang also made a number of key saves throughout the game to keep it tied, and finished with 10 stops.
“Shelby was fantastic all game long for us and did a great job keeping us in that game at times,” said BFA coach Jake Toof. “Our back line did a good job against a good team in Milton. Emma Tetreault did a good job marking their top player all game and Maya Perrault was great covering a lot of ground all over the field, filling the spots for Emma when she went to mark Milton’s scorer.”
The Comets came out of the gate strong, keeping the Yellowjacket attack at bay in the early going and finding the back of the net early as a reward.
Lizzie Hill tracked down a bouncing corner kick and headed a shot over the outstretched arms of Milton keeper Madison North (five saves) for a 1-0 lead just over five minutes in.
“For a lot of the girls, this was their first game under the lights,” said Toof. “Milton is always a good team, so I think getting the goal early on kind of let the team relax a little and know they can hold their own against a good team, and I thought we competed well all game long.”
Milton started to find the groove as the first half went along and had a great opportunity to knot it midway through the opening half. Wennar got around a couple of BFA defenders and with her back to the net at the top of the box turned and fired a shot that got past Lang and off the post and out to keep the Comets’ lead intact.
Lang made a couple of nice saves to keep BFA ahead, but Milton finally found an answer in the final two minutes of the first half. Milton played a long ball down the right sideline and Wennar used her speed to get behind the BFA defense and took a cross-net shot from the top right corner of the box that went just past the goalie’s outstretched arms and inside the far post to make it 1-1.
Thirty seconds later, Milton had a golden opportunity to take the lead going into halftime. Continuing to cause havoc for BFA defenders, Wennar was taken down in the box less than a minute after she tied the game. Shappy stepped up to take the penalty kick, but her attempt dinged off the crossbar keeping it a 1-1 game after the opening 40 minutes.
Milton had a good opportunity to take the lead in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, as Wennar got past BFA defenders down the right side and crossed a pass to Samantha Orest, who just missed the net with her shot.
BFA almost got a gift 15 minutes into the second half when Meghan Connor took a free kick well above the top of the box. Her kick bounced into the penalty box and took a big hop that looked like it might get over North’s head, but the senior keeper used her length to reach up and punch the ball over the crossbar.
North had a solid game coming off her line and shutting down BFA chances before they started.
“Maddie sees the field so well, she covers a lot of space and has a lot of composure, which is key for us,” said Burke. “She leads well from the back, and it’s great to have that dynamic back there.”
Milton had a couple more opportunities throughout the second half, but Lang stood tall with big saves to send the game to overtime.
It was a solid effort for BFA, which entered the game with a lot of emotion after a pregame ceremony in memory of Ada Sorensen, who passed away in a car accident last spring. The Comets are dedicating the season in memory of Sorensen and had a ceremony before the game with her parents and players from both teams releasing balloons in her memory after the National Anthem.
“I thought for all the emotions that the girls were going through in pregame, I thought they composed themselves well from the start of the game until the end,” said Toof. “It was a solid game for us against a very good team in Milton. We just need to continue to improve with a young team. I thought Lizzie Hill and McKenna Remillard were great up top and were workhorses out there, so it was a great start for us.”
Milton kicked off its 2018 season with a solid victory, as it continues to be the target of Division II after winning the previous three titles.
The Yellowjackets will take on Mt. Abraham on Tuesday.
“We definitely have a few tweaks, but I was happy with our start and happy with our communication out there,” said Burke. “We are a bit of a younger team this year, so we still have to work on a few dynamics, but I was overall happy with our first game.”
Photos by Josh Kaufmann, CVNG