VERGENNES — A Vergennes Union High School boys’ soccer team with virtually an entirely new starting lineup held off an experienced Rice team for most of Tuesday’s home game, but the Green Knights scored with four minutes to go and left with a 2-1 victory.
Rice outshot VUHS, 24-7, and controlled most of the first half. And after the Commodores fought back into the game late in the first half and early in the second, the Green Knights took charge again down the stretch. That pressure paid off with Hussein Hussein’s game-winner off a corner kick at exactly 4:00.
Rice took the lead with 9:19 to go in the first half following a direct kick from the right sideline. Commodore goalie Dylan Raymond (six saves) made the initial stop after the ball was served to the top of the box, and a second Rice shot hit a knot of players and bounced toward the left post. Rice forward Sam Dickin was there to tuck it home.
That score seemed to awaken the Commodores, and their offensive midfielders — junior Liam Godfrey in the middle and senior Shane Lawrence and junior Jake Dombek on the flanks — began to set up runs by junior strikers Liam Hayes and Dana Ambrose.
With less than three minutes to go in the half, the ball went to Ambrose about six yards off the left post, with Rice goalie Connor Gorman scrambling back from the far side. Ambrose fired, but defender Jordain Williams knocked the ball off the goal line. VUHS then earned consecutive corner kicks, but could not convert.
The Commodores kept pressing early in the second, and earned a penalty kick at 34:59. Dombek left-footed it into the left side of the net, and the game was tied.
Hayes made one of a couple strong runs shortly after that, but Williams shut it down. The Commodores also came forward to earn two corner kicks at the 31- and 29-minute marks.
But then the tide turned toward the Green Knights, who upped their game, particularly at midfield, to bottle the Commodores up.
VUHS coach Kevin Hayes noted the change.
“We just didn’t possess in the middle, which we wanted to do. And we weren’t winning any air balls, which we normally can do,” Hayes said. “We lost the middle again. We gave it back to them, is what happened, and they reasserted. They were stronger today than we were in the middle.”
Still, the VUHS defense of senior Ryan Moriglioni in the middle and juniors Ryan McEntee and Elan Hugo on the flanks, with help from senior defensive midfielders Josh Benning and Jordan Stearns — who played a strong game — held fast for most of the rest of the way.
“They work well together, and they’re learning as we go forward,” Hayes said of his defense.
Raymond contributed by tipping a direct kick over the bar, stopping a rebound bid after one of two saves made by defenders down the stretch, and twice denying Dickin.
But Rice connected on its fifth corner kick of the half. The ball went to Spencer Beattie at the top of the box. Beattie shot low toward the left post, where the waiting Hussein one-timed it home. Rice then played ball-control and ran out the remaining four minutes.
Coach Hayes said his 1-1 team did not show its skills as well as it did in its opening comeback win over Stowe.
“We had some opportunities, but we didn’t execute when we needed the simple stuff. We didn’t execute the little things today, which is unfortunate. We’re a much better ball-possession team than we looked today,” Hayes said. “We didn’t come out of it until the end of the first half, and then we came off our heels and started getting some confidence, some opportunities. But … we’ve got a young team. They’ll get there. We’ve got some talent. We can move the ball.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]