Eagle boys hold off Wasps for playoff victory
BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ soccer team earned its first playoff win since 2006 on Tuesday, when the No. 6 Eagles held on to defeat No. 12 Woodstock, 1-0.
The 9-5-1 Eagles will almost certainly visit defending champion Milton in a Friday quarterfinal at 3 p.m. The No. 3 Yellowjackets (10-3-1) were set to host No. 14 Stratton (3-6) on Wednesday after the deadline for this edition of the Independent. Milton defeated Mount Abe twice this year by 2-0 counts.
Mount Abe coach Mike Corey said heading into Friday he will remind his team of their first half — which the Eagles controlled, outshooting the Wasps, 9-4; earning a 4-2 edge in corner kicks; and taking the lead on a goal by junior midfielder Phil McCormick — and not of their lackluster second half, when the Eagles were on their heels defensively.
“There was some obviously good stuff, but the last 20 or 30 minutes or so kind of colored what came before,” Corey said. “But I’m still optimistic.”
One reason the Eagles held on against the 6-9 Wasps was senior midfielder and tri-captain Ryan Siegle, who in the final minute made three key defensive plays.
Siegle looked at the big picture afterward. He noted he Eagles bounced back from a .500 season last year to win nine games this season despite heavy graduation losses.
“It definitely feels good. I think this is one of the best teams since we won the state championship in 2004,” Siegle said. “I wasn’t sure, because we didn’t have very many seniors and we had a lot of rookies, but it definitely surprised me. It’s good. I like the team a lot.”
In the first half, McCormick and Siegle set up runs by forwards Nick Earle and Andy Dubenetsky as the Eagles controlled the territory. For the most part, the Wasp defense forced off-target shots, and despite the pressure goalie Nicholas Brands made only two of his four overall saves.
But at 16:41 McCormick broke into the left side of the Wasp box, fooled the last defender, and curled an 18-yard shot around Brands and inside the far post. Corey was among those impressed with the play.
“Phil McCormick demonstrated why he’s one of the better players in the state by carving his way through the defense, and that shot was so purposeful,” he said.
At the other end, Eagle goalie Sam Low (six saves) made a tricky short-hop stop on Colin Hagenbarth on a feed from Nicholas Schmell, as the two most dangerous Wasps combined in the 14th minute. Low in the 36th minute also came out to beat Hagenbarth to a ball, and Siegle and central defenders Ian Delafuente and Levi Duclos made key defensive plays.
The Eagles dominated early in the second half as Earle made strong runs and had a shot blocked on a corner kick. Then the tide turned. The Wasps earned a corner kick in the 10th minute, when Eagle middie Gus Yost blocked a Wasp bid. Soon afterward, wing back Zach Ellison stopped a run near the Eagle goal, and Low saved a Hagenbarth free kick.
In the 12th minute, the Eagles dodged a bullet when Max Ellis rolled a short shot just wide of the right post, and soon afterward Duclos, Siegle and wing back Alex McCormick all cleared the ball as Woodstock pressed.
Corey told the Eagles to stop retreating at midfield, and they started played assertively again at the 20-minute mark. But in the final five minutes, the Wasps fought back. At the four-minute mark, Eagle middie Ariel Werner-Gavrin cleared away a Wasp corner kick. With 90 seconds left, Delafuente stripped Hagenbarth in the box, and in the final minute Siegle headed away a corner kick, blocked a 10-yard shot that may have been ticketed for the right corner, and broke up Schmell.
After the Eagles launched the first four shots of the half, the Wasps owned eight of the next 11 and earned a 4-2 edge in second-half corners.
Still, Corey noted that Low and the Eagle defenders managed the shutout, not to mention a winning season.
“I’m pretty happy given I have five or six guys returning from last year and we have nine wins,” he said. “And that’s pretty exciting for everybody to get back in the tournament and have a win.”