Tiger girls’ soccer beats Stratton Mtn. for second victory

MIDDLEBURY — Despite missing seven players either to injury or an academic trip abroad, the Middlebury Union High School girls’ soccer team improved to 2-0 on Saturday with its second 1-0 victory of the season, this time over visiting Stratton Mountain School.
The Tigers controlled play from start to finish, outshooting SMS by 24-6, showing purposeful play at midfield, and speed and smarts in the back.
Only three long-range shots made it through to sophomore goalie Emily Campbell, who was well-protected again by her defenders: senior center back Sophia Abdul-Sater; sophomore flank back Annina Hare; sophomore Kelsey Smith, who started at central defense before moving to midfield; sophomore Claire Armstrong, who started outside and then moved to the middle; and junior Jesse Wulfman, who came on to play the left side.
That group — which normally includes absent senior Kate DaPolito — earlier also shut out an Otter Valley team that has otherwise scored 13 goals in four games.
“The defense is solid. I’m happy. We have some tough players back there,” said Coach Wendy Leeds.
The midfield of junior Katie Holmes, senior Anna Roy and Smith in the middle, and seniors Sophie Ryan and Emily Robinson and sophomore Julia Vorsteveld on the flanks linked up well and kept dangerous Stratton middies Lyza Stichter and Lulu Schaffer in check.
“I was really happy with the ball movement,” Leeds said. “We’ve been playing a lot of two-touch in practice, and I think it’s paying off.”
But the Tigers kept coming away empty-handed despite 11 corner kicks to none for SMS; strong runs by junior forwards Katherine Townsend and Abby Lane, senior forward Nathalie Ingersoll and sophomore forward Faith Isham; and major threats from Smith and Holmes stepping into the attack from midfield.
In part, the work of SMS goalie Alice Merryweather (13 saves) was responsible. Merryweather’s best save came when she stuck out her right hand at the last moment to deflect Holmes’ six-yard bid after a second-half corner kick.
SMS sweeper Lara Lathrop also won a fierce fight for the ball with Isham on Smith’s well-placed kick into the box midway through the second half.
But with 12:15 to go Isham won the rematch for the game-winner. Smith lofted another ball into the SMS box, and this time Isham was able to shield Lathrop and move toward the right side of the goal. Merryweather came out and got a piece of Isham’s right-footed shot, but it bounced off her and into the upper right corner for the winning strike.
The Tigers easily controlled the rest of the action to move to 2-0, even if they still failed to cash in on more chances.
“I admit I’m frustrated by how many times the ball should have gone in the net and didn’t,” Leeds said. “But we’re getting there.”
Considering the long list of walking wounded and the two players understandably absent due to a science competition in India, Leeds said she was particularly pleased with the Tigers’ quality of play and depth.
 “That is very exciting, actually. That is good to see. I wouldn’t have prescribed this scenario, but since I’m presented with it, I would say it definitely bodes well,” she said. “If we can keep building from here, then I am definitely excited about where we can go.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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