BRISTOL — The Vergennes Union High School soccer team rode a fast start and strong defense to a 2-1 win at Mount Abraham on Thursday that gave the Commodores a season sweep of the Eagles, whose only losses have come to their county rivals.
The Commodores — 3-4-1 after their second straight win — set the tone early with determined play and then scored two goals in the half’s final 13 minutes just when the 5-2-1 Eagles seemed to be on the verge of taking control.
VUHS junior striker Ruby Dombek, who scored the first goal and assisted the second, said determination made the difference.
“I just thought we played real hard through the whole thing,” Dombek said. “We deserved to win.”
As if the Commodores needed more motivation to face Mount Abe, on Thursday the Burlington Free Press girls’ soccer column featured the Eagles’ six-game unbeaten string and mentioned they would be seeking revenge for their opening overtime loss at VUHS.
“We were just pretty pumped because there was an article in the paper about Mount Abe, and it didn’t even consider us as a possibility,” Dombek said.
Mount Abe coach Dustin Corrigan acknowledged that article as one factor while praising Commodores, notably the marking job done by VUHS freshman Kareena Vorsteveld on Eagle senior leading scorer Evy Jacobs (12 goals, two assists).
“We always have a tough time when we play Vergennes,” Corrigan said. “They didn’t give us much time or space in the midfield, just all over the field in the first half. I don’t know that we were really ready to start. I think we kind of read what was in the Burlington Free Press today and bought into our own hype a little bit.”
Corrigan also said Dombek and senior VUHS striker Abbey Baker did a good job of pressuring his usually calm back line, while noting the Eagles righted the ship after the slow start — by game’s end, they had outshot VUHS, 22-9, and earned a 7-2 edge in corner kicks.
“Second half, I was proud how my team was responding and we got back to playing our game … settling the ball and finding feet and combining with each other,” he said.
Early on, VUHS midfielders Tia Hunt and Julia Johnson were particularly effective at winning balls and sending Dombek and Baker forward. Eagle junior goalie Ashlie Fay (five saves) made two early stops on Baker after the Eagles failed to clear well, and Eagle senior back Jessie Martin — probably Thursday’s most reliable Mount Abe defender — disrupted runs by Dombek and K.C. Ambrose.
At the other end, Eagle junior Meghan Livingston made dangerous runs down the right side, missing just wide once and hitting the crossbar in the 25th minute as the Eagles began to earn territory.
But with 27 minutes gone, VUHS was awarded a free kick about 30 yards out. The Eagles set four defenders in a wall, not hearing Corrigan ask defenders to get back into the box. Junior defender Samara Sausville lofted the ball to an open Dombek, who hit a 10-yard shot into the left corner at 12:38.
Eagle senior Chelsea Rublee, Jacobs and juniors Hazel Chorney and M.K. Charnley then all created chances as Mount Abe came on strong.
But the Commodores struck next. Dombek carried to the right corner and lofted a ball toward the near post. It made its way past a knot of Eagles to Baker out front, and she tapped it in at 0:08.
In the second half, the Commodore defense — Phoebe Plank at sweeper, mostly Keyannah Smith at stopper, Vorsteveld and Sausville — largely kept the Eagles from getting good looks at senior goalie Caitlin Chaput (seven saves).
“Their keeper … is very tough to beat,” Corrigan said. “We needed to break down their defense and get behind, and their defense held up pretty well.”
The Eagles scored at 25:57, when Rublee served from the right side to the far post. Livingston’s head and Chaput’s hands got on the ball at the same time — the Eagle head won out and the ball rolled inside the left post.
Jacobs, Rublee, Livingston, Charnley and junior Brittany Atkins created chances, but the Commodores held. In the final minute, Jacobs broke free in the right side of the box, but Vorsteveld blocked her bid. Chaput ranged to snare the following corner kick and end the Eagles’ last chance.
VUHS co-coach Dwight Irish admitted to anxious moments, but said his defense did its job.
“You were kind of holding your breath, but they weren’t getting those shots in the box, free and clear,” he said.
Overall, Irish said the inexperienced Commodores are improving as they begin to understand what he and co-coach Peter Maneen expect of them.
“They’re starting to believe what we’re saying,” Irish said. “It’s clicking a little bit.”
Corrigan said afterward he remains confident in the Eagles and they would learn from the setback — and the lesson was better given last week than in the first round of the playoffs, as was the case in 2011.
“What I just talked to my team about is most soccer games are won by one or two (goals), and you’ve got to play all 80 minutes,” Corrigan said. “We can learn from this and hopefully be a little better prepared for the long run.”