By JOE GONILLO

During championship weekend the Hornets earned two more banners (to add to the boys’ track and field title) as the softball team defeated Mount Anthony 3-2 and the boys’ tennis team defeated Stowe 4-3. Congratulations to all! Now here we go – the last week of school. Music to the ears of students, teachers and even some administrators. Exams – over; make-up days – over; report cards – done; room inventory and middle school community pool outings – completed; sadly, sports – 99% ended; in-service days…well. Hope your swimsuits, tanning spray, bikes, baseball hats, sunglasses, books, golf clubs, pickleball paddles and pools are ready for action.

The softball team truly earned their state championship this year with two edge-of-your-seat, 1-run victories. First they snuck by No. 5 Colchester in the semi’s 5-4 on June 5 in walk-off fashion. Then they returned the trophy to Essex by beating nemesis No. 2 MAU by a score of 3-2 Saturday afternoon in Castleton. Down 4-3 in the last inning to the Lakers, Emily Harvey smashed a tying HR, then Sarah Knickerbocker won the game with a two-out, RBI 2B to continue Essex’ 19-0 season and a birth in the finals. Harv had two hits, scored twice, and knocked in two runs. Makenna Thorne had three hits and two RBIs. WP Caitlin Toth gave up six hits while striking out four. In the championship clash – the third consecutive meeting between the two rivals – no one truly expected the low-scoring game. Essex put together 10 hits, and Toth pitched a complete game for the win allowing six hits and eight Ks. The Hornets shot out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first when Harvey walked, Thorne 1B’d, and Jamie Morin drove in the run on a groundout. MAU tied the game 1-1. Thorne faked a bunt in the fifth then belted a tie-breaking HR to give the Hornets a 2-1 lead. They added a run to expand the score to 3-1 as Molly Bruyns 2B’d, and Morin scratched out an RBI infield 1B. The Pats cut into that lead in the top of the seventh and put the tying run at 3B with two outs. But Toth stepped up to the challenge and got the final out of the game on a weak pop-out. Congrats to Coach Ashley Stebbins, her staff, and players on a sweet-tasting win, a 20-0 season, and a state title.

The boys’ tennis team beat No. 3 Montpelier 5-2 in the semi’s to punch their ticket to the finals. Winning a thrilling 4-3 matches propelled the No. 2 Hornets boys’ to the state championship Friday over No. 1 Stowe. Here’s how the matches played out. The state’s best player, Hornet Preston Gordon, took care of business first. Essex No. 2 Andy Shen promptly won his match to put Essex up 2-0. Stowe’s top doubles and No. 3 single won tying things up. The Hornet second doubles team of David Knickerbocker and partner notched a win, but the Stowe No. 5 single bounced back to tie things up 3-3. That left the match and the state title in the hands of Karl Fung. Essex’ No. 4 was victorious giving the Hornets the state championship and delivering the trophy to 2 Educational drive, their first since 2011. Congrats to Coach Christian Paul and his players.

At the 73rd New England Interscholastic Track & Field Championships, on the campus of the University of New Hampshire, Vermonters performed brilliantly. U-32’s Molly McCreedy won the shot put with a heave of 45’ 8.25”. Essex Hornets’ highlights include Ryan Guerino 10th LJ 21’ 9.25”; Jacob Rigoli discus 144’ 16th and shot put 27th 45’; Henry Farrington 15th 1600m 4:26.16; Lizzie Martell 16th 400m 59.95 and 24th 200m 27.39; Spencer Towle 17th 200m 22.74; Peter Alden 25th 3200m 10:00.74; Hannah Neddo 28th TJ; Hannah Paquette 28th HH; Ali Green 29th HH; The girls’ 4x100m relay Kat Morin, Morgan Whitney, Paquette, and Arianna Moffatt ran 51.68 for 21st; the girls’ mile relay squad Whitney, Ella Larson, Giulia Eddy, and Martell ran 4:16.02 placing 23rd; and the boys’ 4x100m relay team Jackson Baker, Sam Phillippo, James Boldosser, Towle ran 45.29 in 25th. Next up a 6-team max group of EHS trackers look to continue their season at the VT Decathlon Championships at UVM Monday and Tuesday.

The boys’ lacrosse team lost to eventual state champ CVU 14-8 in the Final Four semi’s last week sadly ending a storybook season. Essex played from behind all afternoon in Hinesburg. In a wild flourish they ended the first period trailing only 5-4 on the strength of great team play, passing and aggressiveness that saw Andrew Cooledge score two goals in 34 seconds, the latter flicked in with just over one second left on the clock. Cooledge scored three goals, Grady Corkum and Sam Bowen had two goals and one assist and Cam Frankenhoff added the other score. Aidan Haggerty made five saves. The bittersweet season finale puts their spring record at 13-6, an incredible improvement from their three-win 2017 campaign. Veteran coach Dean Corkum and his staff did an outstanding job all season. He never panicked after a somewhat slow start record-wise (against some tough competition) but not in effort. His patience was rewarded with a season to remember. He stated how proud he was of the Hornets who played hard and clean the entire game. No matter what the deficit, they battled to the horn.

Speaking as a fan, not sportswriter, I was especially impressed with the Hornets in one situation when after a goal and faceoff, CVU was called for an infraction. Just as the Hornets were about to put the ball in play, an overzealous Red Hawk ran by the Hornet with the ball at midfield and whacked/slashed his stick clearly impeding the restart while giving himself time to get back on defense. After waiting a second or two for the ref to make an obvious call (maybe allowing EHS to play a man up), Coach Corkum voiced his opinion about the lack of a whistle in a loud, yet polite, manner or voice. Instead of talking to the coach, thinking about his call or recognizing the emotion and importance of the game, the ref then blew his whistle vs Essex (unsportsmanlike possibly) and gave the ball back to CVU. Not a teachable moment to players or fans! Anyway, the team kept its cool as did the coaching staff who dealt with the misfortune in a sportsmanlike manner. But that’s what you get from a disciplined, well-coached team. I had a senior ending his high school career tell me that he played the last minute of the game and loved playing BLAX at Essex!

Had the pleasure of announcing the GLAX D-I final at UVM’s Virtue Field on Friday afternoon. No. 3 Middlebury defeated No. 1 CVU 13-10 to repeat as champs. The Red Hawks flew out to a 4-0 lead when the Tigers called time out to regroup. They quickly tied the game then took the lead and extended it to 7-5. A furious CVU rally tied the game at seven by halftime. Midd’s defense was the difference in the game as they shut down a high-powered offense.

Speaking of Sand Hill, the pool is set to open Father’s Day at noon.

Women’s soccer league standings may return next week.

Happy Birthday wishes to Libby Smith, Bridget Shelden, Phoebe Harber, Deb Hollwedel, Katie Polakowski, Carol Polakowski, Alssa Lundy, Hannah Kirkpatrick, Missy Stewart, Amy Immen, Ken Singleton and Mike Plageman. Congratulation to our granddaughter, Gianna, who graduates from pre-school next week!