By Tris Wykes
WAITSFIELD, Vt. – Hartford High girls lacrosse goaltender Bailey Cameron wore sweatpants with her school’s field hockey logo on them Friday at Green Mountain Valley. The trousers spoke to the senior’s past as a goaltender in that sport, but her focus was all in the present as the Hurricanes held on for an 8-5 victory in their regular-season finale.
The result allowed Hartford to finish 15-1 and clinch the top spot for next week’s Vermont Division II playoffs. The Gumbies are 7-2 and likely to earn the No. 3 slot, behind 11-2 Vergennes, the 2019 division champion.
Hurricanes senior attacker Zoe Pfeiffer had three goals and Caroline Hamilton had two, but it was Cameron who stole the show with 13 saves. A field hockey standout and basketball starter who also played softball as a sophomore, No. 71 made several outstanding stops and denied a Gumbies breakaway shortly before intermission, when her team led, 7-2.
“Bailey had an amazing game,” said Hurricanes coach Heather Hartford, whose squad surrendered Green Mountain Valley’s final goal with 8 minutes, 31 seconds remaining and used disciplined offensive possession and several crucial, defensive stops to close the hosts out.
“She’s stepped up and it’s impressive to see a kid take up a new sport and excel at it in such a short period of time. She’s a gamer and she likes the intensity and thrives on it, which is good, because those are the types of game we’re likely to see from here on out.”
Hartford began the season with junior Mackenzie Arnold in net. However, Cameron, who said her friends had been trying to convince her to play lacrosse since freshman year, pulled even and was splitting time earlier this month. With Arnold now absent because of personal issues, Cameron took over and looks anything but inexperienced.
“Field hockey helps with my hand-eye coordination and shooting angles,” Cameron said. “In field hockey, I used my legs more than my upper body, so it’s been a challenge in lacrosse to learn to use my arms more than my legs.”
The teams traded goals and were tied, 2-2, with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. From there, the visitors scored five consecutive goals, the most memorable coming from Pfeiffer, the program’s career scoring leader.
Green Mountain Valley goaltender Molly Quinlan scooped up the ball and sought space in a nearby, back corner but was pressured by Pfeiffer. The netminder backpedaled towards the end line and while trying to throw the ball upfield, accidentally dropped it out of bounds.
Quinlan turned away in frustration, allowing Pfeiffer to pounce with a quick restart and a sprint to the open net, where she scored her second goal of the afternoon.
The Gumbies’ Erika Wiebe was soon sent off with a yellow card and Hartford’s Elliot Rupp, Hamilton and Pfeiffer scored during the two minutes she was sidelined.
The hosts earned another yellow card with 4:50 remaining in the game, harming their comeback chances, but they began the second half by scoring before it was three minutes old. Hartford answered when Sophie Howe drove to the net from the left side and scored by leaping into the air and firing past Quinlan.
GMV pulled within 8-5 and it felt as though a Gumbies comeback was unfolding, but Heather Hartford called for her team to slow its offense down. Initially, the Hurricanes fell prey to the lure of taking more shots and losing possession, but after a time-out with four minutes to play, they passed around the perimeter and let their irritated hosts chase them unsuccessfully.
“We regrouped and talked about the fundamentals and regaining their composure,” Hartford said. “I told them to be smart and not to go to net unless it was a really high-percentage chance. When we had the ball, we had to realize we were in control of the game and composure was critical.”
That virtue was evident in the Hurricanes’ net. Cameron didn’t appear nervous, although she admitted to butterflies after the final horn.
“Never having played and then going into a varsity (lacrosse) game is very nerve-wracking,” Cameron said. “But I got into it and playing field hockey, I’m used to not letting goals bother me.
“I don’t let it get in my head and we play all the time as if we were down by two; that’s the mindset we have to have so we push hard.”
Said Hartford: “I’m an extremely proud coach. These seniors were freshmen when I came in and to see the growth of their lacrosse IQ and understanding, it makes you feel good that you might have imparted something to them that makes sense.”
Notes: Hartford’s Addison Cadwell also scored and Jasmine Jenkins had four assists… The day’s Unsportsmanlike Conduct Award went to a Gumbies fan who appeared to be in his 50s. The man began shouting “Shoot, shoot!” and “Take the ball to the net!” in a futile attempt to make the Hurricanes think it was instruction from their bench… Cameron plans to attend West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, estimated population 16,000, with about 10,000 of them being students. The school is located in the state’s panhandle and Cameron plans to study criminal justice with an eye towards a job as a forensic scientist or crime scene technician… Green Mountain Valley was founded in 1973 and trains alpine and nordic skiers as well as those competing in biathlon. It has about 130 students in grades 7-12.
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