MUHS boys lacrosse rally past Redhawks

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team on Tuesday earned one of the program’s biggest wins in recent years, knocking off perennial Division I contender Champlain Valley, 10-7.
The Tigers spotted the Redhawks four quick goals, and still trailed at the end of the first quarter, 6-3. But they rallied to tie the game at the half, 7-7; held CVU scoreless in the second half; and scored three times in the fourth period to nail down the victory.
Senior attacker Christian Higgins scored two of his game-high four goals in the final quarter, including the go-ahead score, which was assisted by senior middie Nick Leach.
Junior attacker Sam Usilton then set up both insurance goals, sophomore middie Bobby Ritter’s score that made it 9-7 and Higgins’s fourth strike of the game. Usilton, Leach and Ritter each scored twice, and Usilton assisted four goals in all.
First-year coach Dennis Smith said the team’s offense began to click in after the slow start.
“We were possessing the ball and moving it around, and attacking some spots we wanted to attack, and we were putting the ball in the net,” Smith said. “We were moving our feet.”
Just as vitally, Smith said the defense of junior Sam Smith and sophomores Austin Robinson and Justin Stone — with support from a rotation of juniors Nick Felkl and Max Livingstone-Peters and senior Derek St. George at long-stick middie — dug in after CVU’s early surge.
Coach Smith noted the Redhawks scored only one even-strength goal after that 4-0 outburst, and said sophomore goalie Nathan Lalonde (11 saves) also played well.
“We had a much better game once we got down and called a timeout and got ourselves settled in,” Smith said. “We just played much better.”
Smith said a key was the team’s midfielders also helping the defense by marking the Redhawks better in transition and starting to win faceoffs and ground balls.
“We were just having a hard time defensively when we were unsettled and they were coming down with an extra man,” he said. “And then we settled in and started picking them up better. And we started winning some faceoffs, too, and … we started winning ground balls and started playing like I hoped we would, more physical.”
In all, the Tigers earned a 23-18 edge in shots on goal. CVU goalie Owen Hudson made 13 saves, and Alex Bulla scored three goals for the Redhawks.
Smith agreed the Tigers should take a lot of pride in the victory.
“They know it’s been a long time since they’ve beaten them at the varsity level,” Smith said. “They see that as a big positive.”
But at the same time, he wants the Tigers to remember to play a full 48 minutes. As well as surrendering the first four goals on Tuesday, they allowed host Mount Mansfield to go on a game-ending run in the Tigers’ 11-10 opening win last week.
“I hope it’s not the icing on the cake, we beat CVU so let’s start relaxing. There are still many things we need to work on, and the kids know that,” Smith said.
His message to the Tigers will be: Enjoy the win, now let’s get back to work.
“If you get lazy, people are going to catch up to you quick,” Smith said. “We want to get better every day.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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