VERGENNES — On Saturday, the Vergennes Union High School girls’ soccer team got a solid effort from its midfield and shorthanded defense, and junior forward Kenadi Dattilio buried a goal in each half. That combination proved to be enough to give the host Commodores a 2-0 win over Middlebury.
The win also pushed VUHS to 5-4-1 and unofficially into sixth place in Division II. The Tigers, despite being more competitive this year, fell to 2-6-2.
VUHS coach Dwight Irish was pleased that the Commodores played hard and won most of the 50-50 balls. Their effort bottled the Tigers up in their own end for long stretches, particularly in the first half.
When we’re a little more determined and focused on being first (to the ball), then good things happen for us,” Irish said.
MUHS coach Jen Clark was disappointed the Tigers didn’t come out of the gate stronger, but pointed to a second half in which play was more even and when the Tigers had all three of their shots at goal.
“I was really happy with our second half and I thought we pieced together some really good stuff there, and if we can build from that in the next week we’ll be in good shape,” Clark said.
The Commodores struck quickly. With Clark shouting at her defense to tighten up its marks in the middle, VUHS senior middie Lexa Higbee broke free down the right wing and crossed to an open Dattilio out front. Dattilio one-timed the serve into the upper left corner, giving Tiger starting goalie Sydney Reigle (four saves in 34-plus minutes) no chance.
The Tiger backs, notably seniors Rosalie Wright-Lapin and Kiera Hoefle in the middle, settled in after that. But the VUHS midfielders — including Higbee, Casey Shea, Morgan Correia, Michaela Bicknell and Dani Stapleford — refused to give the Tigers room as they tried to move up the field.
The result was a series of VUHS chances. Wright-Lapin broke up freshman striker Ruby Dombek’s run, Reigle came off her line to stop another Dombek bid, and Reigle snatched a long-rang Dattilio shot.
At 5:28 of the half, Reigle came out to make a save on Dombek, but was hit in the head on the collision and had to leave the game. Senior middie Sarah Snider filled in well with seven saves. Late in the half, Snider won the ball in a crowd after a VUHS corner kick (VUHS had an 8-0 edge in that department) and made an outstanding kick save on a bid by Abby Baker. The Tiger also dodged a bullet when Higbee hit the post.
The Tigers put the VUHS backs under some pressure in the second half, but the Commodores remained solid. Starting sweeper Tabby Danyow has been out with an injury (she could return this week), and junior midfielder Lily Haigis has been filling in; Irish said Saturday was her best effort. Seniors Ali Provost and Ashley Brunet also played well.
The Tigers’ best chances came on direct kicks by sophomore back Lydia Allen. In the fourth minute, VUHS goalie Caitlin Chaput grabbed one away from Nicole Brown, and shortly afterward Allen fired another just high.
At the other end, Snider held onto a bullet from Stapleford, and Mattea Bagley and Izzy Fleming cleared VUHS corner kicks.
VUHS padded the lead at 23:53. The strong-footed Shea shot high and hard from the left flank. Snider stopped, but couldn’t control, the shot. Dattilio pounced on the ball in a crowd and tapped it home.
Soon afterward, Snider stopped a one-timer from Bicknell, and came out to knock away Dombek’s partial breakaway on a feed from Dattilio.
Freshman Sara Boe gave the MUHS offense a spark, sending Fleming on runs down the left side, putting a couple balls into the box, and getting one long-range shot on goal in the 22nd minute. Middie Britta Clark struck well one late shot at goal, but Haigis blocked it.
Clark praised both her goalies, the work of the defense after the early mistake, and the improved ball movement and skill level of her team.
The next step may be more for the Tigers to assert themselves on the attack, she said, instead of settling for just better passing.
“When we were up there, I felt we were happy just to play the ball prettily,” she said. “Now we’re doing it to the exclusion of shooting. But we’re getting there.”
Irish believes the Commodores are ready for a run to close the regular season.
“If we can defend like we’ve been defending and get midfield play like that, we can finish strong,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.