BURLINGTON -- A scoreless back-and-forth tilt was two minutes away from going to overtime before Essex High School (EHS) finally found the back of the net to break the stalemate and register all it would need for a Wednesday afternoon win.

The ninth-seeded Hornets defeated No. 8 Burlington High School (BHS) in the opening round of the Vermont Principals’ Association Division 1 Girls’ Soccer State Championship and now move into the quarterfinals.

Game Notes:

  • EHS junior Carlota Jensen scored the game’s only goal with just 1:54 left in regulation, being assisted by sophomore Hannah Gilbert.
  • Essex senior keeper Emma Sabourin posted the shutout in net for the visitors.
  • The win puts the Hornets’ overall record on the season at .500 with a mark of 3-3-2; after starting the year 0-3-1, EHS is now 3-0-1 in its last four matches.
  • Essex avenges a Sept. 29 season-opening loss to Burlington in which the Hornets’ were defeated 1-0 on the Seahorses’ home turf with the help of a late penalty kick.
  • EHS is now 6-4 in its last 10 games against Burlington dating back to October 2014.
  • The Hornets next visit an undefeated Champlain Valley Union (CVU) squad on Saturday for an 11 a.m. quarterfinal contest.

How it Happened

First Half: Burlington had the first good push up field following kickoff, but it didn’t amount to much before EHS controlled play for the next eight minutes. Midway through the half, both teams started to create quality opportunities.

With about 23:20 on the clock, the Seahorses saw a pass go across the box to the left side where a shot was well hit, but Sabourin was in perfect position to gobble it up. Minutes later, Essex had a good chance of its own when senior Hannah Himes carried the ball deep into the left side of the box before playing it into the middle, only to see the Burlington keeper come off her line and snag it.

BHS created something with just over 14 minutes left when a lobbed ball was sent in from the right side towards the middle of the box, bounced over a Hornet defender, and was there for the taking on the doorstep. No Seahorse could get to it as fast as Sabourin, however.

Essex had a corner from the right side find a teammate’s head about seven yards out with 11:30 on the clock, but the ball trickled wide left as the back-and-forth continued.

Second Half: Once play resumed, it was more of the same as both squads set up chances but could not capitalize on them. As overtime loomed, the Hornets put together the necessary plays to finally change the scoreboard.

While the ball was bouncing around the midfield, Gilbert stepped up to take control of it and took a few touches before sending a pass forward to Jensen’s feet. The junior beat a couple defenders, avoided being fouled, and buried a take into the lower-right corner of the frame for what the visitors felt was going to be all they needed. They weren’t quite out of the woods yet, however.

After the ensuing kickoff and with just under a couple minutes to tie it, Burlington pushed hard and eventually drew a foul about 35 yards out. Time was waning as the referee set the ball and positioned the Essex defense to where it needed to be while Seahorses pleaded for a stoppage of the clock.

While time wasn’t paused, BHS was still able to take its free kick with seconds to spare, but Sabourin once again reeled it in and kicked the ball away as time expired.

Thoughts from EHS Head Coach Kevin Barber

What do you think about that win?

“I think it was hard fought by both sides. We held most of the play, but they had opportunities that had us on our heels for a while. I think a lot of heart and grit were shown in that game.”

What was the message at halftime? What did you think your team really needed to adjust after the first 40 minutes?

“I'm not sure we changed all that much. I thought we played pretty well in the first half. [Burlington is] definitely deadly on the counter attack, so we talked a lot about how to defend that and where to go -- and at the same time still get up into the offensive end and where to play the ball when we got there.”

What did you say to the team afterwards, that you’re willing to share?

“Just to find a way to score a goal. I thought our first half went really well. I thought we held the play, but just to find that grit -- to find that deep inside, to find that goal. And we did. It took us nearly 79 minutes, but we found it. I think getting together a game plan for CVU is tough, but I know that we're going to do all we can to give them a good battle.”

Do you think your players had a sense of being an underdog coming in today just because of the seeding?

“No. I think the first game we played here was just about even, too. We got scored on with a late penalty kick, so I think that we felt that we are either even or the better team. And I think that's the way we like to go into most games.”

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