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CVU pulls away from Tigers, 12-8 in lacrosse

MIDDLEBURY — In a showdown between two of the top Vermont boys’ lacrosse teams, defending Division I Champlain Valley pulled away from host Middlebury in the late going on Saturday to earn a 12-8 victory at Middlebury College’s Alumni Stadium.
The Redhawks seized control of the D-I standings with a 10-1 record, while the Tigers dropped into fourth at 9-3. Brattleboro (10-2 against a softer schedule that includes less impressive wins over teams the Tigers have defeated handily) stands in second, and South Burlington (9-2, with both losses to CVU) is in third. The Tigers’ three losses have come against SBHS, twice in close games, and Saturday vs. the Redhawks.
Coach Dennis Smith said after Saturday’s setback he believes the Tigers have not shown their best against SBHS and CVU and remain fully capable of defeating them.
“We’re playing even with these teams… But we’re not playing as well as we can. So that’s the good news,” Smith said. “If were playing the best we can and we’re beat, we’ve got to go to the drawing board, but I think we’ve still got it in us.”
On Saturday, Smith pointed to “too many turnovers, too many foolish penalties” as the Tigers’ central problems against the Redhawks. CVU scored on four of five opportunities after Tiger infractions, including one taken just after the Redhawks received a three-minute penalty for using an illegal stick.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Smith said. “They were almost 100 percent when we’re a man down. We’re going to give up some penalties, but you can’t give up the foolish ones.”
And while the Tiger defense of Austin Robinson, Justin Stone, Sam Smith and Max Livingstone-Peters were consistently forcing turnovers, the Tigers’ miscues were too-often self-inflicted, Coach Smith said.
“I think the first quarter we came out a little jittery, throwing the ball away,” he said. “And then we just started pressing in the fourth, and just weren’t keeping the ball in the offensive end. The poor defense was pretty gassed by then.”
The Tigers held an 11-10 edge in shots on goal in the first half, but trailed by 6-5 at the break. CVU’s Alex Bulla gave his team the lead 1:28 into the game with a man-up goal. Senior attacker Sam Usilton equalized at 9:39 with the first of his four goals, a play set up when Robinson scooped a turnover and went coast-to-coast.
Another man-up CVU goal, this one by Hoyt McQuinn, made it 2-1, but the Tigers started controlling play, forcing CVU goalie Owen Hudson (10 saves) to make several of his six first-half stops before junior attacker Connor Quinn (three goals, two assists) beat him. That score came at 4:15 in transition after Quinn took a feed from senior middie Seth Wright, and came before CVU’s Nevin Diparlo made it 3-2 late in the period.
CVU drew the stick penalty to open the second quarter. Most penalties expire when opponents score, but stick infractions mean the offender cannot return for the entire three minutes, giving MUHS a golden chance to put points on the board.
Usilton tied the score on a long-range bouncer at 11:37, but the Tigers were penalized on the faceoff scramble, and CVU middie Dylan Schaefer made it 4-3 on a strong move at 10:51.
The Tigers managed to tie the score just before the CVU penalty expired. Livingstone-Peters picked up a ground ball to give Usilton a chance, and he converted an angled shot from the right side at 9:05 to make it 4-4.
Both goalies then made point-blank saves, Hudson on Quinn and Tigers junior Nathan Lalonde on DiParlo, before CVU tallied the next two goals, by Bulla and Griffin DiParlo.
The Tigers cut the lead to one goal with 19 seconds left in the half when Quinn’s feed from behind the net banked in off a defender. But a minute into the second half, Bulla got a fortunate bounce on a ground ball and capitalized to restore CVU’s two-goal lead.
Then the Tigers came on strong. At 8:47 of the third period, cutting senior middie Nathan Hermann picked the far left corner after taking a feed from Quinn and — after Lalonde (12 saves) denied Matt Palmer on his doorstop — Quinn ducked under a defender and finished high to tie the game at 7-7 at 6:46.
But with middie Steele Dubrul dominating the faceoffs, CVU took charge, rattling off the next five goals, three before the end of the third. Griffin DiParlo converted a cross-crease feed from Elliot Mitchell, Ryan Keelan whipped one home from the high slot, and Palmer struck after a Tiger penalty for having too many long-stick defenders on the field.
The Tigers had trouble getting control of and hanging onto the ball in the fourth, and CVU added goals by Bulla and Nevin DiParlo before Usilton scored with a minute left, with Quinn assisting.
“We just didn’t possess the ball enough in the fourth quarter,” Smith said.
Smith said the Tigers still have “some things to work on” as the regular season winds down, but also have reasons to believe they can win the postseason. 
“I still feel like we can play with anybody,” he said. “And I think the kids think that, too.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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