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MUHS boys’ lacrosse overwhelms Cougars

MIDDLEBURY — Coming into Saturday’s game vs. overmatched Mount Mansfield, the most important thing for the Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team was to play well and to do so for 48 minutes after a lackluster, 6-2 victory at Woodstock on the previous Monday.
That goal was met: The Tigers scored 10 goals in the first quarter and allowed only four shots on their net in a 19-1 victory that pushed their record to 5-1.
“Today we actually came out of the gate and started well,” said senior co-captain and defender Sam Smith. “In past games we played like maybe a quarter, and today I feel like we played more than a quarter. We played at least three, so it was a good win for us.”
Coach Dennis Smith agreed the Tigers showed a better wire-to-wire effort, something he said was important with tougher games on the horizon, including vs. 2013 finalist Essex on the road on Monday. (MUHS was going to host defending champion Champlain Valley this past Wednesday, but that game was postponed until May 17.)
“We’ve got to learn how to play every game,” Coach Smith said. “Monday I didn’t feel like we played that well, but today we turned it around and had a good day and got some confidence back. Hopefully that goes onto Monday with Essex and Tuesday with BFA.”
After a rare Tiger turnover on their first possession, the defense of Smith and juniors Austin Robinson and Todd Stone gave the offense the ball right back. Junior middie Bobby Ritter then bounced home the game’s first goal from 30 feet at 10:32.
Just 1:32 later it was 3-0. Sophomore middie Ali Abdul Sater (three goals) whipped home a behind-the-net feed from junior attacker Connor Quinn, one of his five assists, and the senior attacker Sam Usilton rolled in for the first of his six goals at 9:00.
At 7:28, senior attacker Keenan Bartlett broke in from the right and stuffed a shot in the short side, and a minute later Usilton knocked the ball loose from a Cougar middie and raced in and whipped another goal home. The Tigers then took two penalties, but Robinson knocked the ball loose to defuse one disadvantage, and at 3:59 Usilton scored in transition with MUHS a man down to make it 6-0.
A minute later, Quinn set up Usilton in transition, and at 2:00 Quinn picked the right corner to make it 8-0. The Tigers capped their first quarter with two goals in 15 seconds, with senior Seth Wright netting another Quinn feed and Bartlett picking the corner at 0:59 after taking a pass from the right side.
With the Tigers already subbing freely, scoring slowed in the middle quarters. Senior middie Cullen Hathaway and Abdul Sater sandwiched second-quarter goals around the Cougars’ lone strike, a solo effort from Travis Benson. That was the only ball that got behind goalie Nathan Lalonde (two saves) in two-plus quarters. Reserve goalie Lucas Plouffe denied the only shot he saw.
Usilton tacked on two more scores in the third, one with an assist from Quinn. And in the fourth Ashton Bates, from Quinn; Nathan Herrmann, from Jackson Hounchell; Hounchell; Abdul Sater; and Hounchell, from Andrew Gleason, created the final score.
Two Cougar goalies, Elliot McBride (seven saves) and Will Macone (two) combined for nine saves.
Sam Smith said the Tigers will be confident moving forward against the top teams, notably CVU and South Burlington, which is 5-1 and undefeated against Vermont teams and to which the Tigers lost, 9-6, on April 16.
“We felt like the South Burlington game we didn’t really come to play,” Sam Smith said. “We have a lot of athletes, and it’s up to us. We have to keep working, and things will come.”
Coach Smith was encouraged by Saturday’s effort.
“We moved the ball well. We moved our feet. Our athletes played lacrosse today,” he said.
That type of effort could go a long way against the big dogs, the coach said.
“If we play the way we can, we can stick with anybody in the state. I feel that we match up with good athletes,” Smith said. “At South Burlington, we played only about 10 good minutes of lacrosse that day. The good news is we played 10 minutes and we only lost 9-6.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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