VUHS nips MUHS in overtime for 4th win
VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School boys’ soccer team overcame visiting Middlebury’s good goaltending and defense on Tuesday to win in overtime, 2-1, on the second of senior Jake Dombek’s two goals.
The Commodores improved to 4-5-2 with their fourth win in five games, while the young Tigers, who lost several starters to graduation and three more who decided to focus on club soccer, dropped to 2-9.
Dombek said better teamwork and effort have made the difference for VUHS.
“I think we’ve really been working as a team well,” he said. “We’ve been stepping up with our energy. That’s what’s been helping us.”
Coach Kevin Hayes said coming away with a win was important for VUHS after a disappointing 6-0 loss at Rice (which is in first place in Division II) on Saturday.
“I’m very happy. Even after the Rice game I told my guys we’ve won three out of four,” Hayes said. “This is a nice run for us. It’s definitely good for the guys. Hopefully we’re going to get a home game in the playoffs. That’s the goal.”
Positives for MUHS included a 15-save effort from junior goalie Wilder Perera, including several fine stops.
“We had a great game from Wilder,” said Coach Bret Weekes. “He was decisive, and we needed that from him.”
Perera also received help from defenders Nick Wilkerson, Jake Lawson, Bob Avery and Luke Benz, who disrupted many chances and made the Commodores rush a number of shots. Weekes also said he saw flashes on the attack and at midfield.
“I thought we combined through the midfield a lot today, used the width well, and applied a lot of pressure on them defensively,” Weekes said.
Certainly, the VUHS starting defense of Chris Leach and Ryan McEntee in the middle and Aaron Gaines and Elan Hugo on the flanks, plus midfielder Tyler Kepes when he flipped with McEntee, also played well in allowing only seven shots at senior goalie Dylan Raymond (four saves). They paid particular attention to Tiger high scorer Drew Barnicle, who played well but rarely was allowed a look at goal.
Raymond had no chance at the Tiger goal in the 12th minute. Tiger middie Nick Holmes controlled on the left side and served into the VUHS box. The ball hit a VUHS foot and deflected back inside the left post, and MUHS led, 1-0.
By then, Perera had already stopped McEntee; middie Dana Ambrose twice, once on a feed from middie Max Ratti-Bicknell; and Dombek, on a hard shot from the top of the box.
Later in the half, Perera stopped after Dombek stole the ball and broke in alone, and also denied a dangerous Liam Godfrey corner kick that was bending home with help from the stiff crosswind.
VUHS broke through seven minutes after halftime, when Dombek followed a nice passing play. Liam Hayes went down the left side and found Ratti-Bicknell out front. Perera stopped the point-blank shot, but the ball bounced to the right, and Dombek finished into the lower left corner.
Just after that, Leach defended Brenden Peterson on a long Middlebury counter, and the Commodores attacked immediately, with Hayes setting up Dombek. Again, Perera blocked a five-yard shot, but this time Dombek could not sink the rebound as the Tiger defense cleared.
In the 21st minute, Perera snared Dombek’s bid from near the penalty stripe, and soon afterward Godfrey missed just wide right on a two-on-one break with Dombek.
The Tigers asserted themselves as regulation time wore down, and Kepes made a pair of good defensive plays, one to break up a promising rush by Barnicle and Burke Weekes. The Tigers also couldn’t get a foot on a strong Jerry Staret cross before overtime.
In OT, MUHS had a golden chance to win. Raymond came out to the left of his goal to try to win the ball in a scramble, but instead the ball popped to Tiger middie Duncan McCabe at the top of the box. McCabe pounded the ball at the middle of the goal, but Raymond recovered in time to pull in the chest-high drive.
A minute later, the game was over. Godfrey carried down the right side to the end line, about 20 yards from the goal. He turned the ball back to Dombek moving to the near post, and Dombek earned position on the defender and touched the ball into the corner just before Perera arrived. At 5:40 of OT, the Commodores had scored their second goal on their 28th shot.
Dombek was asked how the Commodores had finally broken through.
“Just making the runs every time and doing the right thing,” he said. “That’s what we need to do, and that’s what helped us in the end.”
Coach Hayes would still like to see a little more patience mixed in.
“We created some chances again, but we got back into that early-season funk,” Hayes said. “We get too hungry, and not patient.”
Regardless, the Commodores are feeling positive as the postseason nears.
“We’re definitely pretty confident, but we have to keep our heads,” Dombek said. “If we are able to play our aggressive game, then I think we’ll be a good threat.”
Coach Weekes said his team continues to learn and improve.
“It’s challenging in a situation with a young team and things aren’t going your way all the time,” Weekes said. “I think the kids have been really good at helping each other and staying focused and keeping a good positive chemistry.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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