Champlain Valley was not going to be denied this time.
Despite being behind for much of the game at 1-0, the Redhawks didn’t get down mentally, maintaining focus and keeping pressure on South Burlington in the state field hockey game at the University of Vermont’s Moulton Winder Field on Nov. 5.
Finally, with just over 11 minutes left, Claire Marcoe knocked in an assist from Emma Kim to tie the game at 1-1.
For the final minutes, CVU kept the pressure up but couldn’t get it into the goal.
“We had good opportunities, but couldn’t convert,” said Redhawks coach Tucker Pierson.
She complimented Wolves goalie Izzy Redzic, whose strong play helped send the game to overtime.
In the bonus period, it was more of the same with both teams competing hard but unable to score. Finally, with just over two minutes left, Marcoe took a shot that appeared to go in, but somehow Redzic managed to deflect it.
However, the Redhawks’ Miranda Oppenheimer was there to seal the deal, knocking in the deflection for the winning score and ensuring that, after several years of being close, Champlain Valley Union had its first state field hockey championship with a 2-1 overtime win.
“We just kept up the pressure for the whole game throughout all four quarters,” Pierson said.
She noted the Redhawks’ offensive prowess as a difference maker.
“We have had success scoring goals this season,” said Pierson, in something of an understatement. Her squad outscored opponents 46-10.
The coach was also proud of the defensive play of her team. She cited two huge saves by goalie Grace Ferguson, the defensive play of Danielle Gamelin and Sloan Roy, and the midfield play of Tess Everett.
“Defenders don’t get a lot of stats, if any,” Pierson said. “We had a great defensive game.”
The win was the first title for Pierson in her 20 years of coaching, which started in Oregon.
After moving to Vermont in 2015, ironically Pierson initially coached for South Burlington, but started at CVU in the fall of 2016.
A year later, Pierson had helped coach the Redhawks to the 2017 finals where they fell to none other than the South Burlington Wolves.
In 2020, they were back in the finals again, but came up short against Bellows Falls.
The Redhawks had really strong players in past years, Pierson said. The one difference is that this team may have played with more of a collective effort.
Dealing with adversity this year probably helped build this team’s cohesiveness, she said. “That really helped with the collective mindset — that we wanted to win.”
The Redhawks seem to have been made stronger as a team by homophobic slurs heard at an away game and within the CVU community, prompting the team to write a letter to the community addressing the issue.
In addition, the players found out in October their coach has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“They really struggled with that and rallied together,” Pierson said. “They know I haven’t always felt great at some of the practices. I’ve gone through treatments and come to practice, so they’ve stepped up their responsibilities and their commitment to winning in that way.”
So, the season has been about more than just winning field hockey games — much more.
“Honestly, the team is so inspiring. Coming to practices and games has been the best part of my day and week,” Pierson said. “They give me so much energy and so much purpose. That’s been really, really helpful.”