Young Eagle boys dodge Bullets, 3-1
BRISTOL — The new-look Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ soccer team on Tuesday survived a second-half surge from visiting BFA-Fairfax and prevailed, 3-1, and improved its record to 2-0.
The Eagles, because of graduation and the decision of a couple athletes to focus on club soccer, return just two starters from the team that in 2013 claimed the program’s second Division II title.
Yes, said senior defender and co-captain Gus Catlin, one of those two veterans along with fellow defender Whit Lower, the Eagles are inexperienced — but that doesn’t mean they lack talent.
“We’re a little fresh. We’re a little new, and we’re still kind of working out things,” Catlin said. “But I see a lot of potential for the future.”
In Tuesday’s first half, the Eagles got goals from sophomore Will White-Pifer and freshman Nick Catlin and launched seven shots in all, while Gus Catlin, Lower and the Eagles third defender, junior Tucker Paradee, worked well enough to deny Fairfax any shots on goal. The Eagle midfield, with junior Charlie Meyer faring particularly well, also worked the ball purposefully and won the majority of the 50-50 challenges.
“That really showed what we can do when we’re on our game. We played really well,” Catlin said.
White-Pifer’s goal came at 29:09. Meyer picked off an errant clear, carried to the right endline and sent the ball back to junior middie Rowan Warren. Warren relayed to White-Pifer, just inside the 18 in the center of the box, and he one-timed the ball into the lower left corner.
Nick Catlin padded the lead five minutes later, capping a series of a half-dozen crisp passes. The sequence ended when Paradee sent the ball toward the near post from the right sideline, and Meyer tipped the ball over charging Fairfax goalie Brandon Cardinal (two saves) and toward the far post, where the charging Catlin banged it home.
Later in the half, Cardinal did well to stop Eagle junior middie Lucas Richter from the penalty stripe, and Richter soon afterward fired just wide from close range.
But the game changed in the second half, during which the Bullets outshot the Eagles, 12-2. They cut the lead to 2-1 at 29:34 on a well-executed set piece on a free kick that started just outside the box and finished when Evan McNall one-timed a diagonal feed from Alex Ferguson into the lower left corner.
That play happened three minutes after Lower went down, not to return, after tweaking a knee; his status is uncertain.
The Bullets kept attacking, and had one goal called off for an offside violation. Eagle goalie Nick Sczcecinski also made all three of his saves after the break, including tipping a long-range Luke Rebeor bid over the bar in the 19th minute and knocking a well-struck Alex Chapman free kick wide left a minute later. Gus Catlin, moved to the middle with Lower out, and Meyer, moved to Catlin’s spot the left side, also made key defensive plays.
Finally, the Eagles began to counter. Nick Catlin beat a defender and shot just wide from the 18 in the 30th minute, and Sebastien Durante struck for the insurance goal with 2:24 to go. He took a pass from junior Dylan Weaver and moved into the left side of the Fairfax box before finding the inside of the far post with a low, left-foot shot.
Catlin said the Eagles eventually regrouped.
“We were a bit shaken when Whit went out early, but we got it together mostly by the end,” he said. “We held together.”
Eagle coach Mike Corey liked the first 40 minutes, and said that Fairfax also deserved credit for the second half.
“I was pleased with the first half. We played the game we wanted to play. We moved the ball well. We finished our chances. We played with a lot of poise … As young teams do, they lost their composure in the second half. We gave up a goal, and there was an injury to a key player,” Corey said. “We weathered the storm and got the win, fortunately.”
Overall, he is happy with the way his team has already learned to move the ball and communicate — what he called “Mount Abe soccer.”
“They’re beginning to understand what they have to do to be successful. And as a coach, it’s a lot earlier in the season than I had anticipated,” Corey said. “Their confidence has grown. I’m hopeful we’ll have a pretty good season.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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