By RUSSELL JONES
The Otter Valley boys’ lacrosse team stepped on to a muddy field ready for a huge game against Division II rival Green Mountain Valley on Thursday, May 1. Coming into the game, the Otters had never beaten the Gumbies in coach Jesse Milliman’s five years in Brandon, and as far as he knows, they had never beaten the ski academy on the lacrosse field, period.
“They’re a ski school and they produce Olympic-caliber athletes,” the coach said. “This was a huge game for us because we started the season with three D-I schools and got our teeth kicked in. Those kind of losses can be disheartening.”
The Otters didn’t lose faith in either their coach or their game plan as they came out on Thursday to face the athletic team from Waitsfield. The chilly temperature along with misting rain and muddy conditions didn’t slow the Otters a bit, unlike their opponents.
“I think the field conditions actually helped us,” Milliman said. “It slowed down their athletes and we just sat back and played our zone, let our defense work.”
Otter Valley earned a 6-4 victory.
Milliman said his defense is anchored by goalie Alec Stevens.
“He may not be the most vocal leader, but he lets his play speak for itself and leads on the field,” he said. “He plays the game with extreme intensity and is fearless. Everyone on the field looks up to him.”
The 30-something coach said that he’s been playing the game since he was three, and Stevens may be the best goalie he’s ever seen play. Stevens allowed four goals on Thursday and saved close to 20 shots on goal.
All the in-goal heroics are for nothing if the offense doesn’t get going; and Otter Hayden Gallo got going early and stayed hot for most of the game.
“He’s our workhorse attackman,” Milliman said. “He’s tough as nails and he takes a beating and keeps going, that’s all I can say about him. He’s like the quarterback of our offense, and teams know that but still can’t stop him.”
Gallo scored five goals against the Gumbies in OV’s 6-4 win on Thursday, with Ethan Sulik-Doty tossing in one also.
The Otters were clinging to a 3-2 lead at the half, but Green Mountain Valley tied the game with just over eight minutes left in the third. Gallo fired in goals with four minutes and under-two minutes left in the third to put the Otters back on top.
With a 6-3 lead halfway through the final period, the Otters stuck to their game plan.
“We play a conservative style anyway,” Milliman said. “I told them if (the shot) was there take it, if not just eat the time. We have a goalie that allows us to do that.”
Milliman said this game was a testament to how hard his players have worked throughout the season. “This was a momentum changer for us,” he said. “We have a string of tough D-II games next week, all winnable, and this was a huge win and gets us going.”
The 2-3 Otters took on Mt. Abe on Monday, May 6.