OVUHS boys’ soccer makes it four wins in five tries

BRANDON — Visiting Fair Haven on Tuesday gave the Otter Valley Union High School boys’ soccer team a tougher challenge than the Otters expected on their Senior Day, but ultimately OV’s relentless pressure gave them a 2-1 win.
The victory was the Otters’ fourth in five games, including a 6-0 victory over the Slaters in Fair Haven on Oct. 1.
Senior striker and co-captain Jeff Corbett said they didn’t play as well this time, despite OV’s advantages of 32-8 in shots at goal and 8-1 in corner kicks.
“We needed to work on our passing a little better this game. We weren’t moving around as fast,” said Corbett, who assisted the second-half game-winner. “But we came through in the end.”
Coach Muffie Harvey said her team tends not to play its best on Senior Days, and her roster includes nine seniors. 
“There’s an emotional factor,” she said. “The reality is it’s the last time they’re going to play on this field, and most of them have been with us for four years.”
But even if the Otters weren’t firing on all cylinders, they are still 4-7-1 after an 0-6 start. Corbett said many of the seniors, including defenders Andrew Levandowski, Alex Leber and Thomas Roberts; goalie Beau Buxton, who stepped into that position for the first time this season; and forwards Colton Pratt and Eddie Dupont, who started on Tuesday, have worked hard to improve. Junior Barron Harvey has also made an impact at midfield, both on the flanks and in the middle.
And the additions of three new players has given OV a lift: speedy senior midfielder Tyler Bicknell, a transfer from Florida who scored on Tuesday, and sophomore exchange students Oskar Sadurski, a versatile and talented player who has been on a scoring binge, and Clint Sangyoon-Lee, a skilled midfielder.
Even not at their best on Tuesday, OV moved the ball more purposefully and controlled it more easily than in recent years.
“We’re playing a lot better. We’re working more as a team and passing the ball around and working our triangles,” Corbett said. “We’re bringing it together as a team a lot more.”
Coach Harvey said the Otters’ focus on improving their ball control has allowed them to improve.
“There’s definitely more rhyme and reason to our play,” she said. “They’re more effectively lifting their heads and processing information and making better decisions.”
Despite all that, the Slaters took the lead on Tuesday on a brilliant goal by Jesse Dodge. Their best offense came from goalie Nick Boule’s booming punts, and in the 17th minute Dodge won a battle for a long punt and broke into the left side of the box.
Buxton came out to meet him — earlier he had alertly beaten Dodge to the ball on a similar play — and Dodge drilled an 18-yard bomb into the upper far right corner to make it 1-0.
The Otters kept the pressure on the Slater defense of Youssef Rajia, Ashford Goodhue, Luke Harvey and Dylan Schulte the rest of the time. Bicknell on the right flank, Barron Harvey and Sadurski (despite man-marking from Slater Jordan Felion) in the middle, and Will Claessens on the left dictated play at midfield.
They and Corbett repeatedly tested Boule (14 saves) even if some shots drifted wide.
“We definitely could have executed and finished a little bit better,” said Coach Harvey.
Boule made his best first-half save with three minutes left, leaping high to deny Corbett. In the second half, OV ratcheted up the pressure. Sadurski hit the post in the second minute; Dupont shot just wide in the fourth; Boule made the save of the game in the fifth, diving to his right to knock a low Harvey blast wide; and OV sophomore Connor Gallipo, moved from defense to midfield in the second half, hit the post in the 10th minute.
OV broke through in the 20th minute. Levandowski struck a corner kick from the left side to just inside the penalty stripe, and Bicknell rose above a crowd to head it high into the net.
Less than two minutes later Corbett slid the ball to Sangyoon-Lee cutting into the box from the left side, and Sangyoon-Lee hit the far corner from 15 yards.
Sadurski, who played defense most of the second half, and Corbett had the best chances down the stretch for OV. The Slaters threw everything at OV in the final 90 seconds, even sending Boule into the attack, but two shots drifted well wide.
Corbett said he expects an even better effort as the Otters hope to finish strong on the road.
“We’re really looking forward to Mill River and (Woodstock),” Corbett said. “We’re going to try to win our last two games this season.”
Coach Harvey wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
“I have a lot of faith in them. They’re awesome young men,” she said. “We’ve come a long way.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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