Mount Abe lacrosse eases passed Otter Valley boys

BRISTOL — The host Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ lacrosse team picked up a 12-3 victory over Otter Valley on Monday that the teams’ coaches viewed differently.
Eagle co-coach Paul Low saw a result sparked by junior attacker Travis Bachand’s five goals and three assists as a much-needed confidence boost for a team that had lost five straight after a 2-1 start, including three one-sided games last week.
“We were coming off a very difficult week … and we needed to find our comfort zone back on the field as far as passing, ground balls, defensive contact,” Low said. “This was sort of a good warm-up game to turn our program around. We have a lot of young kids who are relatively new who are sometimes, I think, a little tentative … But today, I think they moved the ball pretty well. We got most of the ground balls. They defended the ballcarrier from Otter Valley very well.”
On the other hand, in the Otters’ last three games Coach Randy Stewart had seen his team pick up its first win, 15-2 over Randolph, and play respectably vs. Hartford and Burr & Burton Academy.
Stewart was less happy on Monday.
“We took a step back today. We played amazing against BBA. We played awesome against Hartford,” Stewart said. “And then we come up here and play absolutely like we did in the beginning of the season, dropped balls, couldn’t pick up ground balls. The fundamentals came back to haunt us. And once that happens, unfortunately the wheels just come off and we start worrying about the big hits rather than taking care of the ball.”
A bright spot for the Otters was the continued strong play of senior goalie Elyas O’Classen, whose 26 stops included a number of beauties, such as kick saves and point-blank denials in which he came out to challenge Eagle shooters.
“He has been unbelievable this year,” Stewart said. “His progression has been tremendous. I hope he gets some sort of recognition from the state.”
Despite a half-dozen O’Classen saves in the first period, the Eagles took a 2-0 lead. Bachand curled from behind the net at 8:40, and at 0:55 senior middie Forrest Wallace swooped in from the right side and picked the lower left corner.
OV had a couple chances in the first. Senior Eddie Dupont hit the post, and senior Garrett Eugair forced freshman Eagle goalie Patrick Brown (who did not allow a goal in 31:23) to make one of his four saves.
The Eagles took charge in the second as their midfield pressure did not allow the Otters to move up the field, and defenders that included juniors Paul Sabourin and Will Van Buren, senior Mike Wetzel and freshman Matt George snuffed out most OV forays. Junior Ira Fisher, Wallace, sophomore Gus Catlin, and seniors Dylan Weaver and Mike Wetzel all were effective at midfield for Mount Abe.
 Although the OV defense of senior Morgan Whitney, sophomore Adam Sherwin and freshman Jared Felkl did not play badly given the constant pressure, and senior middie Jeff Corbett chipped in with a couple defensive plays, they and O’Classen could not prevent the Eagles from adding four second-quarter goals.
Bachand added the first from a sharp angle at 11:17, Weaver bounced home a 20-footer at 5:49, Wallace whipped one in at 3:17, and the Eagles won the faceoff to set up junior middie Whit Lower’s transition goal at 3:02. For OV, Eugair had two chances, missing just wide early in the quarter and forcing Brown to make a stop as time wound down.
O’Classen made a series of saves to open the second half, but Fisher’s long-range bomb made it 7-0. Freshman Tucker Paradee (three saves) relieved Brown at 4:37 but was not tested in the quarter while O’Classen continued to rack up saves. But O’Classen could not stop Bachand at 2:00 on a pretty Fisher transition feed that made it 8-0 after three periods. 
Low said he and co-coach Tim McGowan were pleased with the Eagles’ production on the fast break.
“Our transition game worked pretty well. We had four good transitions from defense to offense that we scored on,” Lowe said. “It made a huge difference in their attitude in how they played.”
The Otters broke the ice with their own transition goal at 10:23 of the fourth, when Eugair converted a pass from senior middie Jakob Pillon. O’Classen then twice stuffed Bachand, but could not stop back-to-back Fisher goals set up by behind-the-net feeds from Bachand.
Senior Brandon Hemple made it 10-2 at 2:12 with a sweep move. Bachand added two solo strikes before the Otters tacked on a nice transition goal in the late going, with senior Jakob Mulcahy setting up senior Colton Pratt.
Overall, Low said the game should give Mount Abe a lift heading into a game set to be played at Green Mountain Valley on Wednesday and then into a Saturday contest at Vergennes at 11 a.m.
“I think we have a great bunch of kids. They’re fantastic,” Low said. “They just need to get the confidence secured on a game-to-game basis,”
Stewart said the Otters will look to bet back on track by going back to the basics.
“I can tell you what we’re doing tomorrow: fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals,” Stewart said. “We’re going to go back to simple catching and throwing it and ground balls. Because when you do those things and we slow down our offense and actually move the ball, we can be a pretty good team. We can be dangerous.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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