Tiger boys’ lacrosse starts strong

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse season started well on Saturday, when the Tigers breezed past traditional rival Woodstock, 14-2, in a game moved from Woodstock to Middlebury College’s Alumni Stadium due to weather and field conditions.
The Tigers got a strong defensive effort led by seniors Austin Robinson and Justin Stone and senior goalies Nathan Lalonde (eight saves, one goal against in the first three periods) and Lucas Plouffe (seven saves in the fourth quarter). Robinson paced the Tigers with five groundballs, a category in which the Tigers led the Wasps, 32-15.
Senior Connor Quinn (three goals, four assists, four groundballs) and freshman Jack Donahue (four goals, one assist) led the attack, and senior midfielder Bobby Ritter (two goals, one assist), junior midfielder Ali Abdul Sater (two goals), and sophomore attacker Spencer Carpenter (two goals) added multiple scores.
Coach Dennis Smith noted the Wasps had not been able to hold a full-field practice during the preseason, while the Tigers have practiced outdoors on the college field.
Even given that advantage, Smith was pleased overall with the Tigers’ dominance. 
“Offensively, I thought we played pretty well. We made mistakes, just like anybody would in the first game. But our mistakes were a lot fewer than theirs were, and we capitalized,” he said.
The Tigers took leads of 3-0 after one period and 8-1 at the half, scores Smith said could have been closer if Lalonde had not been sharp.
“They are not a bad team. They probably could have had three or four goals by halftime, but Nathan had a good first half,” he said.
Still, Smith credited his defense for limiting the Wasps to nine shots on goal through three quarters, after which he substituted freely.
“Hey, we gave up two goals. No matter who you’re playing at any time, only giving up two goals, that’s a great start for the season,” he said.
Smith was also happy with his midfielders’ effort, crediting them for the lion’s share of the groundballs.
“They had a great game, probably one of their best groundball games in my three years of coaching, not only the middies but everybody all around,” Smith said. “If we can pick up groundballs like that I feel very confident we’ll be fine.”
Quinn scored twice in the first period, and Ritter added the third as the Tigers took the lead. Donahue scored three times as MUHS took complete control in the second, with Ritter and Abdul Sater chipping in a goal apiece.
The Tigers then outscored the Wasps, 6-0, in the third period to take a 14-1 lead entering the fourth. Carpenter found the net twice in the period, and junior middie Jerry Niemo, Abdul Sater, Donahue and Quinn rounded out the scoring.
Junior attacker Jackson Hounchell, Donahue and senior middie Cullen Hathaway contributed assists during the game as the Tigers finished with eight helpers on their 14 goals.
Smith said the Tigers worked the ball well for high-percentage shots. Wasp goalie Wynn Falvey made four saves.
The Tigers’ Wednesday game at Essex was postponed, and they will next play at Rutland on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Moving forward, Smith said it will be crucial for the Tigers’ younger players to learn from the team’s veterans not to dwell on inevitable miscues.
“That’s the thing with an older group, plus young guys, is trying to get the young guys to understand that mistakes happen, it’s all part of the game,” he said.
But Smith still expects the Tigers to work to iron out the wrinkles he saw in Saturday’s game.   
“I’ll give it a B. I’m never satisfied, as everyone knows. There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “But I was very happy at the end of it.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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