In the quarterfinals, South Burlington girls lacrosse had to hold off Champlain Valley Union, who knocked them out of the playoffs last season, to claim a narrow victory.
In the semis, this time it was southern opponent Rutland forcing the Wolves into a tightly contested match.
“The kids knew we had a tough bracket to even get to the finals,” said South Burlington coach Anjie Soucy. “We had to take it one game at a time.”
By the time Saturday’s Division I girls lacrosse championship rolled around, South Burlington was battle-tested.
Top-seeded South Burlington needed every second of the offensive poise, defensive resolve and calm under pressure they gained in the playoffs to claim the championship.
The Wolves beat No. 3 Burr and Burton 8-7 at the University of Vermont to capture the D-I state title, leading wire-to-wire and holding off a determined Bulldogs squad.
“The whole season has been a collective team effort and they did it again yesterday,” Soucy said. “This just feels great for the program, the school and the kids.”
With the win, South Burlington caps off a perfect 19-0 record. An undefeated season is the cherry on top of the championship sundae.
“The kids were excited when we first got the team together,” Soucy said, “They felt like we had a lot of potential but I don’t think anyone would have said we wouldn’t lose a game.”
It is the sixth D-I title in program history and the first since 2014.
South Burlington was tested just 20 seconds into the game, when starting midfielder Lilly Truchon went down with an injury.
“That was one thing I had not thought about going into the game, someone going down,” Soucy said.
But the Wolves stepped up. Danielle Sleiman shifted up to midfield from her usual defensive position, while freshman Madie King-Thurber slid back to play defense.
South Burlington responded with goals from Kate Hall, Kathryn DeMag and Lindsey Booth to open with a 3-0 lead.
While the offense opened up a slight lead, Claire Phillips built a wall in net for the Wolves.
The senior goalkeeper allowed just two goals through the first half and into the second half of the game.
“As the season went on the kids just felt like Claire would be there,” Soucy said. “Her vocal communication on the field was so much better than in the years past, confidence-wise that was key for us.”
After taking a 5-2 lead into the second half, South Burlington watched the Bulldogs mount a comeback. They did not flinch.
Christina March scored a key goal with just under three minutes to play – with a big assist from new midfielder Sleiman – to give the Wolves a 8-6 lead.
The Bulldogs added a goal late, never quitting in their quest to catch South Burlington, but it was too little too late.
“I thought we were going to be okay with 21 seconds left ...but then they went and scored,” Soucy said of the late BBA goal. “It took 17 seconds to score so when we went to draw and there were only four seconds left, I felt ‘Okay, we’ve got this’.”
March and Sleiman led the South Burlington offense with two goals each. Kate Hall, Sam Crane, Kathryn DeMag and Lindsey Booth each scored once for a balance offensive attack.
Phillips finished with 19 saves.