VUHS boys’ lax knocks off Eagles

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School boys’ lacrosse team spotted visiting rival Mount Abraham two early goals on Tuesday, but outscored the Eagles by 7-1 in the two middle periods on the way to an 11-8 victory in the opener for both squads.
The Eagles earned a 7-2 edge in shots on goal in the opening quarter. But VUHS junior goalie Broc Clark held the fort after Eagle senior middie Gus Catlin and sophomore middie Owein LaBarr, from junior attacker Lucas Richter, gave Mount Abe a 2-0 lead in the first 4:34.
After that, VUHS junior defenders Jeb Hodsden, Jack Eisenhower, Brad Sturtevant and Hunter Mashak, and junior long-stick middie Lathrop Brownell, made it hard for the Eagles to get good looks at Clark, who finished with 10 saves.
And VUHS junior attacker Tyler Crowningshield (three goals, five assists), senior attacker Erik Eisenhower (five goals) and junior middie Tyler Kepes (three goals) began to do damage at the other end.
But Crowningshield said the Commodores really took control when their defense and goalie took charge.
“Our defense was the best part,” he said. “You can score, but to get a stop gives you so much more momentum. It gives you an edge.”
VUHS struck its first goal with 1:32 to go in the first, when Eisenhower beat Eagle goalie Tucker Paradee (seven saves) from point blank after taking a transition feed from Crowningshield.
The Eagles then stormed the VUHS goal. Junior middie Charlie Meyer, who finished with four goals, hit the post with a minute left, and then Clark made back-to-back stops on LaBarr and senior attacker Dylan Weaver.
VUHS took the lead with two goals in 35 seconds early in the second period. Crowningshield curled around the cage and converted at 9:01, and then set up Eisenhower with a behind-the-net feed at 8:26.
Clark shortly afterward stuffed a LaBarr breakaway bid, but could not stop Meyer from tying the score at 4:39 on the game’s prettiest goal. Paradee cleared from near the crease to cutting senior middie Whit Lower at midfield. Lower leaped high to make the catch before turning and firing another 50-yard pass to Meyer, whose diving shot beat Clark to the lower right corner.
Lower, seeing action for the first time since an ACL tear during a soccer game last fall, later left after tweaking the knee, but said it wasn’t too serious and that he hopes to return to action.
The Commodores then went on a 5-0 run through the end of the third quarter. Kepes pinged a shot in off the right post at 1:56 of the second with VUHS a man up after an Eagle penalty, with an assist from Crowningshield, and 33 seconds later Crowningshield scored in transition from Kepes after Kepes picked off a pass at midfield.
That 5-3 score stood at the break, and first-year Eagle coach Ryan Fitzpatrick said the Commodores had seized the momentum.
“I think my guys came out strong, ready to go,” he said. “I think they thought they were going to run away with it, and then Vergennes didn’t stop. I give them credit for that.”
The Commodores controlled the third period, adding to their lead at 7:59, when Crowningshield used a nice fake to roll from behind the net and score; at 4:07, when Eisenhower again netted a Crowningshield feed; and at 0:06, when Kepes converted an Eisenhower assist. The Eagles had a couple chances, but Catlin hit the post, and Clark stopped a LaBarr shot ticketed for the lower left corner.
LaBarr got that back when he was credited with a score to open the fourth, when a VUHS defender accidentally knocked the ball past Clark. Goals by Eisenhower at 11:10 (that one after an Eagle penalty) and Kepes at 5:50 made it 10-5 before Meyer sparked a late Eagle run.
Meyer picked the corner twice from long range to make it 10-6 at 4:00, and Catlin tacked on a shorthanded goal at 3:39 to make it 10-7. Meyer then dodged several defenders on a 60-yard scoring run at 1:23, and the Eagles had hope down by just two.
But Hodsden won a key ground ball and moved the ball up to Crowningshield, who ate up 30 seconds before passing. After a drop, Eisenhower won a ground ball and ran in to ice the win with 12 seconds to go.
Fitzpatrick said the Commodores’ edge in ground balls — there were many as the teams saw full-field action for the first time — was pivotal.
“Ground balls. It was a field hockey game for a little bit. I think (VUHS Coach) Ed (Cook) and I can both agree on that one. But we’ve got (practice on) ground balls ahead of us,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
He expects the Eagles to bounce back at home vs. Otter Valley on Friday, although the Eagles will be without Meyer after a last-second ejection on Tuesday.
“I think this has got the first-game jitters off,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ll see what we can do on Friday.”
Crowningshield said he believes the Commodores can build on Tuesday’s effort.
“I think we can maybe pull out a good season, maybe even have a winning season,” he said. “If we keep up stuff like this, I think we can, if we play as a team like we did today.”
Cook said he was pleased with almost all aspects of his team’s game — offensive production, improved defense from his midfielders, and the solid work of his defense and goalie.
Cook said the Commodores have clearly improved from a year ago.
“I have sophomores and juniors that last year got pounded, took some lumps, and grew from them,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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