VUHS boys’ lacrosse outlasts Otter Valley

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School boys’ lacrosse team broke into the win column on Tuesday in what was a hard-fought, if not always crisp, 7-6 victory over Otter Valley in a game that saw both teams missing starters.
Given the off-and-on rain and the facts that both teams are young and without key athletes due to spring trips, it wasn’t surprising that ground balls were plentiful. As well as tying for game scoring honors with three goals, VUHS sophomore attacker Tyler Crowningshield also scooped a game-high 14 wayward balls.
OV sophomore middies Collin Eugair and Keenan Pratt were not far behind in that department, picking up 10 apiece, and Pratt also tossed in two goals for the Otters, one fewer than junior middie Derek Bassette’s team-best three.
Commodore junior Erik Eisenhower, usually a midfielder, played attack on Tuesday with two starters there missing, and he scored three times and snared nine ground balls, one more than sophomore middie Tyler Kepes, who also scored a goal and keyed the VUHS transition game.
VUHS coach Ed Cook was happy to see his 1-1 team pull out a victory after last week’s one-sided setback vs. Milton in its opener, when the lack of a full roster really hurt.
“A win’s a win. We kind of got beat up a little bit against Milton, I think first-game jitters,” Cook said. “For being a young team, I thought we played really well. It was a scrappy game. We matched up well with Otter Valley. They’re much better than they have been in the last couple years.”
OV assistant Carl Gutzman, filling in for absent head coach Randy Stewart, saw the 0-4 Otters come close to winning for the first time as their late push came up just short. Like Stewart did after last week’s loss to Mount Abraham, he said the Otters just have to maintain their focus on the basics to keep improving.
“It was a good overall game. We just have to work on the little things. The ground balls, we have to win those for sure. As soon as we win the ground balls we can start getting more possessions, and the passes can start getting cleaned up,” Gutzman said. “Everything else, overall, compared to the beginning of the season, we’ve improved 100 times.”
Cook, too, said the young Commodores, despite earning more ground balls than OV, have to improve in that and other areas.
“There are things to work on. We’ve got to pass out of double teams better. Our ground balls were not great,” Cook said. “There were plenty of ground balls, and we just need to do a better job of going in and getting ground balls.”
Both coaches were happy with their defenses. OV junior Adam Sherwin led his team’s backline, but all the defenders played well as a unit, while sophomore goalie Carson Leary stopped six shots for the Otters.
“Our defense was good,” Gutzman said. “Our slides were really good, which was actually a plus because we were just working on them yesterday. So everybody is just starting to learn what they’re supposed to do.”
Sophomores Hunter Mayshak, Jack Eisenhower and Jeb Hodsden started at low defense for VUHS, with support from senior long-stick middie Brady Paquette. Sophomore goalie Broc Clark was credited with 11 saves.
“Our goalie is coming along. He made some good saves. Our defense, there are three sophomores still trying to figure it out,” Cook said. “Once they dial in and figure out who is doing what, they’re good. They’re going to be OK.”
The first period finished at 2-2. OV took a quick lead on a long-range bomb by sophomore middie Colton Leno. Erik Eisenhower knotted the score at 9:59, and VUHS went ahead when Leary ventured out of his goal with the ball, had it checked loose, and saw Kepes pick it up and whip it home for 30 yards out.
Bassette made it 2-2 with a minute left in the first on a strong move in the slot, and Pratt made it 3-2, OV, at 9:46 of the second. Eisenhower and Crowningshield were the difference in the rest of the quarter. At 8:48, Crowningshield picked the near corner from the left side, and two minutes later Eisenhower fed Crowningshield in transition to give VUHS the lead. At 2:10, Eisenhower dodged in to make it 5-3, a score that stood at the half.
Clark made a nice stop on Pratt to open the third period, which was mostly contested at midfield. OV finally pressured steadily in the late going, pressure that paid off at 1:07, when Bassette cut into the slot and converted a feed from sophomore middie Jerrit Patch to make it 5-4, the only goal of the quarter.
Eisenhower’s third goal came at 10:46 of the fourth and restored the Commodores’ two-goal edge. Bassette made it 6-5 at 6:07 by curling into the slot from the left side, a play set up by freshman Tyson Cram’s ground-ball win in the corner. But VUHS responded when Hodsden prevailed in a long fight for the draw, raced toward the OV goal and set up Crowningshield’s third score of the game at 5:40.
OV pressed the rest of the way, but shots by Bassette, Pratt and Eugair all sailed wide. Pratt’s long shot at the horn found the net to create the final score.
Cook said he hopes the Commodores will get a lift from the result.
“This was a good ego boost, to get a win into the books,” he said.
Gutzman hopes the May 12 rematch can produce a victory.
“We’re going to be looking forward to it, because this was a great game,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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