Otter Valley boys’ soccer thumps Windsor

BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School boys’ soccer team snapped a three-game losing skid in convincing fashion on Monday, scoring five unanswered second-half goals to defeat visiting Windsor, 7-1.
Winless Windsor cut into the Otters’ 2-0 lead in the second half’s first minute, when striker Brandon Tillman’s hard shot from the right side bounced in off OV senior goalie Shane Quenneville.
But the Otters responded within two minutes, when freshman Ben Jerome took senior middie Will Claessens’ feed from the left side and drilled a rocket into the upper right corner.
In the 11th minute, senior Barron Harvey — moved to striker on Monday from midfield only because he had a sore leg — waltzed through the middle of the Yellowjacket defense and found the lower left corner for the second of his three goals, and the rout was on.
The 4-6 Otters showed good ball movement, creativity and a threatening attack all game, and most of their 33 shots were dangerous.
“I’ve got some skilled ballhandlers,” said Coach Muffie Harvey. “We’ve been really trying to press home to them the importance of not only how they move with the ball, but how they move without the ball.”
Although the Otters scored just twice in the first half, arguably they were even more dominant before the break, when they piled up an 18-4 shots advantage, although many sailed wide and two hit the framework.
The Otters’ central midfielders, Claessens and junior Connor Gallipo, and senior right wing Nick Mischanko were particularly effective setting up chances by Harvey in the middle and sophomores Ben Lones and Colton Leno at left half and wing, respectively.
Claessens assisted the first OV goal, by Harvey at 24:24. Claessens sprung Harvey with a long ball right down the middle of a Windsor defense that struggled to mark all game, and Harvey found the lower left corner.
A minute and a half later, it was 2-0. Mischanko found Harvey cutting into the box, and Harvey relayed to Leno moving in from the left side. Leno chipped the ball over onrushing Windsor goalie Ford Fitzherbert (eight saves) from close range.
Windsor showed some life in the half’s final 20 minutes, as the best Yellowjacket player, Connor Collins, launched his team’s first shot about 24 minutes in. OV goalie Shane Quenneville made his only first-half save in the 29th minute, stopping Jacob Garnjost.
The Otter shots and chances kept coming before the break, the best of which was a Harvey header that hit the right post on a Leno serve from the left side.
After Windsor’s surprise goal to open the second, OV took charge quickly. After Jerome and Harvey made it 4-1, Gallipo was up next, ringing an angled shot off the right post and in at 23:11. Harvey again danced through the Yellowjacket defense at 14:15 for an unassisted strike, and Claessens tacked on the final score at 11:23, sliding in to poke home a loose ball after a Gallipo free kick.
At the other end, the defense of senior Devin Beayon and sophomore Lucas Tremblay on the flanks and Collin Eugair in the middle handily dismissed most Windsor advances. Quenneville made three saves in about 57 minutes, and freshman Thomas Kingsley stopped two shots in the final 23.
As crisp as the Otters looked against an inferior team on Monday, Coach Harvey said they have not showed their best against tougher competition: All of their losses except a one-goal setback at Arlington on Sept. 27 have come by three goals or more.
“What happens is they panic when they come up against a skilled team, and then their communication shuts down,” Harvey said.
Harvey said “once she gets ahold of them at halftime” and reassures the Otters they can compete, they typically play better in the second halves of those games.
“Sometimes these boys don’t have as much faith in themselves as I have in them,” she said. “I wish they did have more confidence in themselves, because they are capable of holding their own as long as they communicate and maintain their shape.”
Despite that lingering issue, Harvey said a team that lost many key players to graduation is coming along well.
“They have moments of glory,” she said, “and the moments of glory are longer and more frequent than they used to be.” 

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