NEWPORT–Wednesday afternoon will find the North Country field hockey Falcons in a familiar position; Heading to the University of Vermont to compete in the Division III semi-finals.
Last year, the Falcons were the underdogs, having upset second-seeded Bellows Falls on the road.
The number seven Falcons squared off against perennial powerhouse and third ranked Missisquoi Valley Union in the semi's, where they lost 2-1.
The biggest thing that North Country gained from that game, besides the experience, was a hunger for success.
I wrote last year that the semi’s was the first time I had ever seen MVU play scared, and I believe that that was the moment where the NCU girls knew that they had something special going on, and they knew they would have the tools coming back to find success in 2013.
Players like Adrianna Fournier, Brittany Verge, Brittany Fortier, Stephanie Tarryk and Mara Spates were all names that contributed late last season and would be returning this year.
This season, new faces like Morgan Greene, Briana Bocelli, Brittany Royer and Bayla Stewart have stepped up their game and quickly have established themselves as names to be reckoned with in Division III.
One big question coming into this season was would Myrriah Gonyaw be able to fill the pads vacated by Danielle Gabucci.
Gabucci was a huge part of North Country's run last year, and if the Falcons were to succeed this season, Gonyaw would have to match Gabucci's 2012 efforts.
The answer was a resounding yes, as the senior netminder more than held her own this season, earning four shut-outs with a goals against average of 1.4.
"It was really intimidating to be honest with you," Gonyaw said about taking over the duties in net from her predecessor. "Danielle was awesome and I learned from the best so I could go out and be the best that I could be and I couldn't have done it without her."
On Tuesday afternoon, the Falcons were getting in one final tune-up before they face the number two ranked Stowe Raiders in Wednesday's semi-final contest.
Coach Chantelle Bouchard spoke about what was different between this year's trip west versus last season's.
"Last year we went into the game against MVU as underdogs, having won the quarter-final game against Bellows Falls. This year, if you look at how we played and what our record is, there is no reason for us not to be there. The major difference this time around is that we are a more experienced club. Right from the start of the season we had made of goal of returning to UVM, and now what we have to do is play our game if we want to go further than we did last year."
Said Spates on the team's return to UVM, "We have a lot of girls who were there last year, so we know what we are getting into so hopefully that gives us an advantage over Stowe."
Stowe comes into this game as the number two seed in D II, and in their only regular season meeting against the Falcons, they came away with a 3-2 win at North Country.
Game time is 3:45.
This time the two teams will meet at a neutral site, and that site could be a big factor in the outcome of the game.
Neither team plays on an artificial surface, and UVM's playing surface lends itself to a very fast, very quick style of play.
"I don't think anyone expected how fast the game would be," Bouchard said of her team's experience with the artificial surface. "We have a little experience on it now, and we have been practicing in the parking lot trying recreate that type surface in order to better prepare for the game."
Bouchard says that the Falcons approach to playing Stowe will be to come out fast and strike right away.
"When we come out playing well we tend to end the game playing well, so that will be a big part of our game plan."
Of course having JV coach Jessica Viens, a former coach at Stowe who has seen these players play numerous times, giving you tips on how to defend against the Raiders doesn't hurt either.
Now, with all the prep work down, all of the practices complete, it will be up to the Falcons themselves to determine their future.
Lose and you go home, win and you get one more day in the sun.
Let's hope the sun shines again on the 2013 North Country field hockey team.