Eagle boys down Gumbies to win Middlebury tourney

MIDDLEBURY — The Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ soccer team took control during the second half of Middlebury’s J.P. Carrara tournament final to defeat Green Mountain Valley, 2-1, and win the championship.
As well as giving them their second straight Carrara title, the win also pushed the Division II Eagles to 2-1 after an opening one-sided loss to D-I title favorite Champlain Valley.
Junior striker Grayson Webb, who scored both Eagle goals against the 1-2 Gumbies, said the Eagles have improved their play and will get a lift from their tournament results.
“It feels really good for the team to finally come together,” Webb said. “We’ve been moving the ball a lot better, taking our time with it and moving it around, and it’s just great to win the last two games.”
To prevail, the Eagles had to survive a first half in which the Gumbies controlled possession, as evidenced by their 6-0 advantage in corner kicks. But by game’s end, the Eagles outshot them, 10-8, and the corner kick tally finished at 7-2.
Mount Abe coach Mike Corey said there were two parts to the Eagles’ ability to come on strong. One, his team has worked unusually hard on conditioning, and secondly they played with poise.
“I thought my team showed some resilience. They were under a lot of pressure early in the game … and we didn’t lose our composure. We kept trying to do the right stuff,” Corey said. “And as the game settled down, things started to flow our way.”
Despite the Gumbies’ first-half edge in possession, Eagle defenders Zach Ellison in the middle and Conor McDonough and Houston Cote on the flanks, with plenty of help from the midfield, allowed only four shots at their goal. Four of their eight overall shots were on target, and goalie John Lower stopped three of them.
The Eagles took the lead with 16:39 to go in the first half. Center midfielder Phil McCormick sent Webb into the box, and Webb kept a defender on his back while finding the net from near the penalty stripe.
The Gumbies equalized at 13:56 on their fourth corner kick. Thomas Woolson served, and Jack Schibil headed it home.
GMVS started strong in the second half, with Schibil shooting high after a restart and Woolson firing wide from the left side in the first 12 minutes.
Then the Eagles took charge. McCormick forced Gumby goalie Michael Zucco to make a diving save with Webb and Alex McCormick lurking in the 18th minute, and Webb shot just high soon afterward. Zucco came out to deny Phil McCormick after that.
At 11:04, the Eagles took the lead. Freshman midfielder Cale Thygesen sent a long ball down the middle, and both Webb and Alex McCormick — whom Corey moved into the attack for the second half — challenged for it.
The ball bounced around, and finally McCormick emerged with it inside the box. He slid the ball to his left, and Webb tapped it into the open side of the net.
“I’d say most of that was Alex’s work,” Webb said. “All I had to do was knock it in.”
Despite one more strong Woolson run, the Eagles held firm to move over .500. Corey said he is still tinkering with personnel and formations, but likes the way things are shaping up.
“I’m looking for a little more consistent, whole-game performance, but I think that’s going to come once we get all the pieces settled,” he said.
Certainly, while enjoying post-game beverages, free pizza and T-shirts — and the tournament hardware — the Eagles were happy.
“It’s awesome,” Webb said. “Shirts. Gatorade. Plaque. It feels good.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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