MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer team on Monday used solid defense and midfield play and two goals from senior striker Akeem Pottinger to turn back Mount Abraham, 2-1, in a well-played final of the Tigers’ J.P. Carrara & Sons tournament.
Pottinger’s second goal came with about 10 minutes to go, snapped a 1-1 tie and capped a second half in which the Tigers controlled play. The Tigers improved to 2-0 and won their own tournament for the first time in several years.
Senior central defender Connor Collins worked with senior defenders Max Livingston-Peters and Connor West and sophomore Oliver Clark to limit the Eagles to 10 shots at senior goalie David Burt, five on target. Collins said the Tigers spoke at halftime about upping their play.
“We talked about we need to play with intensity, we need to step up, we need to start winning 50-50s, and we just need to play with more strength, and we definitely did that,” he said.
In the first half, the Eagles (1-1) outshot the Tigers, 7-5. In the second, MUHS earned a 10-3 edge in shots on goal. In that second half, senior Marrott Weekes and sophomore Calder Birdsey at central midfield and junior Morgan Ingenthron on the right flank moved the ball well, and senior Shaw McCabe moved up to forward to team with Pottinger and senior Nico Mackey to create more threats.
“We made a couple adjustments, and I thought Marrott stepped up his game in the second half,” said MUHS coach Doc Seubert. “And I thought Calder went out there and was just nasty. He was tenacious.”
Mount Abe coach Mike Corey got strong efforts from his central midfield tandem of senior Alex McCormick and junior Cale Thygesen, and junior forward Ira Fisher, who scored the Eagle goal, regularly challenged the Tiger backs.
Corey, who said both teams played well, was also happy with his inexperienced defense, including seniors Sam Weaver and Matt Sweeney and sophomores Gus Catlin and Whit Lower.
“I’m still really pleased with our young defensive unit,” he said.
Corey was happier with the 1-1 first half, when his team controlled much of the final 20 minutes after Thygesen moved from central defense to midfield. But he said the Tigers’ earned their win.
“Middlebury played a great second half,” Corey said. “We were putting a lot of pressure on them in the first half. We had them kind of boxed in there for a time. We had a lot of the ball. But they stayed organized, had a lot of guys behind the ball, and counterattacked well.”
MUHS took the lead in the 15th minute, when Weekes fed Pottinger just outside the 18, and he fought off a defender, stepped inside the box and found the lower right corner past Eagle goalie Sawyer Kamman (seven saves).
The Eagles equalized in the 17th minute. Thygesen, out on the left side, fed Fisher, who had escaped his mark breaking in diagonally into the bar side. Fisher one-timed past Burt, who had no chance at a ball that went back into the upper left corner.
The Eagles continued to possess, but had only one more golden chance: Thygesen lined up a 16-yarder in the 30th minute that Burt dove to his left to deny, and West cleared the rebound away.
In the second half the Tigers came alive. Pottinger, McCabe, Birdsey and Ingenthron had bids, and Collins threatened on headers on the Tigers’ four corner kicks. Catlin made a couple of outstanding defense plays to help preserve the tie, and Weaver also played well.
But Pottinger wasn’t to be denied. He took a feed from McCabe and beat two defenders before hitting the lower right corner again for his third goal in two games.
Afterward, the Tigers and their coach were happy with their early results. Collins said he believes the Tigers have the skill to succeed, especially at midfield.
“We got a lot of players in there with good technical skills,” Collins said. “They can link passes, they see the field really well, and they can get the ball where they want to get it.”
Seubert also saw progress.
“The kids played the way … they’re capable of doing,” Seubert said. “They played composed. We took advantage of opportunities, and I think we did a much better job in central midfield.”
Corey also expects the Eagles to do well, especially when they are back at full strength; some players were not available on Monday.
“I have to remind them we have to stay focused and work hard for 80 minutes,” he said. “But I’m not going to knock my team. I think we’re pretty good.”
VUHS DEFEATS MILTON, 4-1
In Monday’s consolation game, Vergennes shrugged off a fourth-minute goal by Milton’s Jon Covey and posted a 4-1 win, the 1-2 Commodores’ first.
“We had the run of play, and we were able to put the ball in the net,” said VUHS coach Kevin Hayes.
The Commodores were sparked by two goals from sophomore forward Liam Hayes, the first in his varsity career, and a goal and two assists from senior middie Timmy Johnston.
Those two teamed up to tie up the game in the 23rd minute. Johnston served from the flank to the far post, and Hayes tapped it home.
About 10 minutes later, Hayes took a long throw-in from Jordan Grant, turned and knocked in the go-ahead goal. Four minutes after that, Justus Sturtevant volleyed in another Johnston cross to make it 3-1, and that score stood at the half.
Johnston tacked on a pad goal with about 10 minutes left, taking a pass from sophomore Liam Godfrey before firing a shot home.
VUHS goalie Steven Paquette backstopped the win with seven saves, while Nate Dooley stopped nine shots for the 1-2 Yellowjackets.
Coach Hayes said he added Liam Hayes and Godfrey to the roster because of injuries and other issues that left the Commodores shorthanded in the early going. He said he would consider making one or both of the additions longer term because at least one injured Commodore, senior striker Charlie Stapleford, could be out for a while.