Tiger booters fall short vs. Raiders

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer on Tuesday played an evenly fought contest against visiting Rutland, but the Raiders made better use of their chances to come away with a 2-1 victory in the opener for both teams.
The outcome remained in doubt until the final seconds. That’s when three Tigers, senior midfielder Joseph Vanacore, junior striker George McKeever-Parkes and freshman middie Henry Hodde, all battled with Rutland defenders for a strong left-side serve from MUHS senior middie Drew Barnicle before the Raiders finally cleared the ball away as the horn blew.
Junior midfielder Duncan McCabe had halved the Raiders’ 2-0 lead with 19 minutes left in regulation. The Tigers created plenty of other good chances, something first-year coach Reeves Livesay said he found encouraging even if they were unable to cash them in.
“Absolutely (I’m encouraged),” Livesay said. “And to have the chance right at the end to tie it up if the ball had bounced the right way for us, that was certainly a positive from the game.”
Although a couple mistakes led to first-half Raider goals, Livesay said he was generally pleased with a defense that saw junior Nick Wilkerson — who played a strong game — and senior Lewis Short start in the middle and senior Cole Gregory and junior Eli Miller start on the flanks.
“Defensively we didn’t give up too many opportunities,” Livesay said. “And I think some of the ones we did give up we can certainly talk about and came from some of our decision-making in the back, which is certainly something we can improve.”
The Tigers had the game’s first great chance a couple minutes in, when a through ball sent sophomore forward J.D. Goettelmann into the box. But Raider defender Keegan Bliss recovered to partially block Goettelmann’s shot.
Rutland appeared to take charge at the 10-minute mark with a flurry of shots, but the Tigers answered with bids by Barnicle and Vanacore. In the 23rd minute, Barnicle sent Goettelmann into the box again, but Raider goalie Colby McKay came out to block his bid. Hodde had a chance at the rebound, but a defender knocked it away for a corner kick. Four minutes later, Barnicle set up Goettelmann again, forcing another corner kick; each team had two in the half and four for the game.
But then the Raiders came on. Tiger senior goalie Wilder Perera (four saves) denied Gus Gamble in the 29th minute, but at 10:36 the Raiders broke the ice. Gamble sent Jacob Henderson into the right side of the box, and Henderson blasted a shot home.
At 4:35, Rutland made it 2-0. Henderson looped a long ball into the box, and Andres Aguilar got there first behind the Tiger defense and before the charging Perera and tapped a 15-yard roller inside the right post. Rutland led by two despite being outshot, 10-7, in the half.
The Raiders then dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half, during which they outshot the Tigers, 9-4. But the Tigers had the first chance: McKay moved back to tip wide Hodde’s long, looping shot from the left side.
Then the Raiders launched several shots, one of which hit the post. Perera only made one save in the half, but came off his line to break up several plays, and other shots sailed wide, including on two corner kicks nine and 11 minutes in.
But the Tigers gradually found their footing and reasserted themselves.  
“Players managed their effort and their energy in the game well in the second half so that we were strong at the end of the game,” Livesay said.
On one strong counterattack, they drew a foul, and McCabe, who also moved the ball well from his central midfield position, made no mistake on the free kick that followed: He drilled a shot into the upper right corner from 19 yards out.
The Tigers had a golden chance when a Barnicle corner kick went right across the goalmouth in the 35th minute, but no one could get a piece of it.
Then came the final-second surge. One Tiger got a piece of Barnicle’s cross, but could not get it on goal. It bounced off a defender and down, and the Tigers swarmed. But ultimately the Raiders were able to clear and seal the win — to their credit, Livesay said.
“They played a great game,” Livesay said. “They did do a good job finishing the opportunities they had, and they certainly did a very good job of withstanding the pressure when we were able to get that going at the end.”
He also credited his own team for what he called a “really good effort” in its opener.
“I think it’s a great start to the season,” Livesay said. “We would have liked to come away with a win, but there were a lot of positives for the game.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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