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Commodore duo tops Independent soccer all-star squad

ADDISON COUNTY — The four local union high school boys’ soccer teams didn’t really make their mark this fall, with only Vergennes winning a postseason contest.
But each squad played a number of competitive contests, especially Coach Kevin Hayes’ 5-8-3 Commodores, who lost seven times by one goal, twice to Division II champion Rice.
Two Commodore seniors did the most to help VUHS, and they are the 2014 Addison Independent Co-Players of the Year, midfielder Dana Ambrose and forward Jake Dombek.
Many other Commodores played well, and two more seniors made the 2014 Addison Independent Boys’ Soccer All-Star Team.
Coach Mike Corey’s Mount Abraham squad compiled the next-best mark, 4-9-2. The Eagles’ hopes of repeating as champion took several hits — heavy graduation losses, defections to club soccer, and a season-ending injury to senior central defender Whit Lower in their second game. They remained competitive, and a senior defender and a versatile junior earned recognition here.
Middlebury and Otter Valley each won twice, Coach Bret Weekes’ Tigers against a tougher schedule. MUHS, like Mount Abe, lost projected starters to club soccer and fielded a young squad. Two productive junior field players and a busy junior goalie merited berths on the Independent team.
Coach Muffie Harvey’s Otters likewise had a rebuilding year, and fortunately some younger players showed promise. One of those athletes, a freshman forward, and a versatile senior are honored here.
Selections were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
DANA AMBROSE, VUHS SENIOR, CO-PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Tireless central midfielder who played well at both ends of the field and seemed to be constantly involved in the action … Scored two goals and led all local players with six assists, some on the accurate free kicks he regularly delivered for VUHS in the offensive end … Demonstrated fine field vision and the poise and skills to put that vision to good use … Won countless 50-50 balls and defended relentlessly.
Hayes’ Quotes: “He was a force in the middle … He really was a team player. He looked to help his teammates out all the time … He became an all-around soccer player … He was definitely the pulse of the team … He created a lot of the stuff we did … He supported the offense and got back to help the defense … He was our captain on the field. … He just kept going, the little engine that could.”  
JAKE DOMBEK, VUHS SENIOR, CO-PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Speedy, hard-working forward who improved his finishing touch this year to lead all local players with 11 goals — out of the Commodores’ 25 — and added an assist … Scored in nine of 16 games … Became a real threat when moved to striker from left midfield … A natural left-footer, worked hard in the offseason to develop his skills, particularly to add his right foot as a threat.
Hayes’ Quotes: “His first step was so good we just put him up top, and he developed as an aggressive, scrappy striker … His skill definitely improved during the year … He was tenacious, and dangerous with either foot … One thing he worked on in the offseason was his right foot … In the air, he got more aggressive, which definitely helped … He developed the confidence to take on defenders.”
GUS CATLIN, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Fast, skilled defender who anchored an otherwise inexperienced backline that allowed 25 goals in 17 games and kept five clean sheets … Passed smartly out of the back and struck accurate restarts in the Eagle end and goal kicks … Showed communication skills that helped organize the defense … Shared Corey’s coach’s award with Whit Lower.
Corey’s Quotes: “He’s a great ball-winner … He developed this year as a guy who was a good distributor … He has quick feet, is very quick in change of direction and quick to the ball … If there was anything even remotely loose he seemed to get to it … He has great defensive instincts, timing on when to step into a tackle. He’s very strong on the ball … He was my MVP this year.”  
DREW BARNICLE, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Dangerous striker with speed, size and skills … Of the seven goals MUHS scored this fall, he was involved in six, with five goals and an assist … Has the ability connect from long range, the touch to convert under pressure in the box, and the vision to create chances for teammates.
Weekes’ Quotes: “Drew has great tools … He has great pace … He had moments of brilliance … He could score from 30, 35 yards. He’s dangerous. He could shoot from anywhere in the attacking third … He’s a strong combination player in give-and-go scenarios … He has very good touch on the ball … The captains, and Drew was one of those, were really strong influences that were positive this year.”
JOSH LETOURNEAU, OV FRESHMAN. Notes: Quickly earned a berth in the starting lineup and quickly started producing, using quickness, tenacity and finishing ability to score nine times … Moved around from center midfield to right and left wing, where he was most effective and showed a knack for being at the right place at the right time and a nose for the ball.
Harvey’s Quotes: “He’s a very dynamic player … He’s a playmaker … I moved him all over the field this year because he has great ballhandling skills and amazing tenacity … He’s very, very coachable and has a great attitude … He’s very, very quick, and he never, ever quits … He got knocked around a lot, but it never stopped him.”
LIAM HAYES, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Despite missing six games with a nagging back injury that slowed him all fall, contributed four goals and two assists as a central offensive midfielder and striker … Possibly the Commodores’ most skilled and creative ballhandler and passer.
Hayes’ Quotes: “We just wanted to get the ball to him as a playmaker … His dribbling skills were the best on the team … He could really take on the defense … He could definitely see the game … He played at 70 or 80 percent all year, and when he did play, he produced.”
CHARLIE MEYER, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Fast, talented player who was involved in half of Mount Abe’s 10 goals this fall, contributing three scores and two assists … Started his career as a defender, was moved to central midfield this season, and then to striker midway through … Brought that defensive ability with him and plays a well-rounded game.
Corey’s Quotes: “He’s very quick and fast for a tall, kind of lanky guy … He’s very technical, he’s got really good ball skills … He’s got a very high work rate … He understands how to pressure guys with the ball … He became much more effective off the ball and playing combinations with people. I thought he became a more complete player as the season progressed.”
BURKE WEEKES, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Reliable, skilled defensive midfielder and team leader … Versatile athlete who fulfilled a key role defensively for the Tigers and also converted a penalty kick and stepped into the attack to set up three Barnicle goals … Poised passer who helped the Tigers transition up the field.
Weekes’ Quotes: “He’s very consistent and composed … He played in a lot of different spaces when we needed the skillset he could bring … He brings consistency in his possession, especially possession under pressure … He’s tough in the air … He has an awareness of the game and angles and space … He’s an unselfish player … I really liked his field awareness and presence and being able to work off other players.”
CHRIS LEACH, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Central defender who used his quickness and communication skills to anchor a back line that allowed 22 goals in 18 games, including five shutouts … Took restarts in the defensive end and most throw-ins, where his ability to reach the box created chances and an assist … Good defender within the team concept and in one-on-one situations.
Hayes’ Quotes: “He was a voice in the back … He’s a great, great, guy to coach. He’ll just do what you ask to do … He did fantastic in the shutouts we had, and holding Rice in those games … He knew when to pressure and when to cover … He saw the danger before it developed … He really developed, took good angles, and was just a smart defender.”
CONNOR GALLIPO, OV SENIOR. Notes: Despite nagging injuries, including to his stronger foot, had a solid season fulfilling several roles defensively and offensively for OV … Smart, relentless defender at midfield or in the back who also stepped into the attack, scoring one goal and using his skill and vision to set up three … Provided leadership to a young team.
Harvey’s Quotes: “He got to the point where he could go anywhere on the field … He was good at distributing the ball and setting up other players on the team … I like him at midfield because he will just slow the game down and put it back in control … Connor just has a very clear picture of where he needs to be … He just gets a very good read of what’s coming at him.”
WILDER PERERA, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Fared well against a schedule that was by far the toughest of the local teams, making many remarkable stops and breaking up just as many plays by coming off his line to prevent shots … Hard work in the offseason created more ability and confidence in his ball-stopping ability and mastery of the other nuances of goaltending — positioning, timing and distribution.
Weekes’ Quotes: “He had a different mindset this year. He was able to be aggressive in the box, really started to come on with an understanding of when he needed to come out and when he needed to stay. His angle work, much improved. His hands, much improved … He’s very composed. He didn’t get rattled … He’s able to move across the box laterally well … He did some camp work over the summer and just came back a different kid.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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