Wasps tie Tiger girls’ soccer late in the game

MIDDLEBURY — Victory slipped away from the Middlebury Union High School girls’ soccer team’s grasp with just seconds to go in regulation Friday afternoon. Although disappointing for the Tigers, the 1-1 tie with visiting Woodstock probably was a fair result.
The 1-2-1 Tigers linked up well at midfield, battled hard for 50-50 balls, and defended strongly, while the 2-0-1 Wasps earned the edge in shots at goal (23-9) and offensive chances.
The Wasps would have put more goals on the board if it were not for good work by junior goalie Riley Fenster (eight saves) and the back line of senior Claire Armstrong, junior Darcy Staats (filling in for injured all-star senior Kelsey Smith in the middle), and sophomore Jessie Hounchell, with help from junior midfielders Lauren Turner and Kess Moulton and sophomore middie Helen Anderson.
“They had to dig deep and I thought they did well,” said Coach Wendy Leeds. “I would have liked them to get the win.”
The Tigers were missing three other players due to injury who are part of their regular rotation: senior goalie Molly Campbell, who split time with Fenster in the first two games and started the third, senior striker Hannah Lawrence and sophomore middie Isabel Rosenberg.
Leeds said those who have filled in have played well, but the team still misses the players who are not suiting up, most of whom should return soon.
“The bench wasn’t as deep as it could be, but it’s still deep, and I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen from everybody,” she said.
Smith, an all-state player and the 2014 Lake Division Defensive Player of the Year, does leave big shoes to fill. After the game, Smith said she hopes to play this week.
Leeds said, “She does such a good job of making sure nothing slips through the cracks there.”
The Tigers probably had a slight edge in the first half. The Wasps had five shots, but only one on net. The Tigers, meanwhile, put three on Wasp keeper Kaila Lemmer (four saves), and she could do nothing with one of them.
That came in the 23rd minute. Armstrong sent a ball down the left side, and junior striker Payton Buxton pressured a Wasp back into coughing it up. Buxton then drilled a shot inside the far post.
The Tigers nearly made it 2-0 as the second half opened. Senior middie Annina Hare made a run down the left side and served across. Both Buxton and senior middie Hannah Buttolph had a chance at the ball before the Wasps could clear.
Then Woodstock began to shut down the Tiger attack. Although MUHS continued to work well at midfield, the Tigers were not getting looks at goal. Wasp defenders Rosalie Geiger and Gabbi Rozumek deserve credit, but Leeds said also the Tigers should be more aggressive.
“We need some players who are a little more selfish,” Leeds said. “We’re starting to look for net first a little bit more, but it’s not our first natural instinct.”
At the other end, the Wasps were letting shots fly. In the 17th minute, Fenster snared Anna Deifenbach’s long-range bid, and two minutes later she denied Alexa Tsouknakis from the top of the box. Three minutes later, Tsouknakis fired just wide, and five minutes after that Armstrong caught Tsouknakis to prevent a breakaway.
The Wasps also broke up a few Tiger clears as MUHS continued to work on its passing game. Leeds said her younger players are still on “a learning curve,” and she had no problems with seeing growing pains.
“I want my team to feel free to make mistakes,” she said. “The minute they start to be afraid of making mistakes, they rob themselves of the opportunity to grow.”
With 12 minutes to go, Wasp Abby Kaija picked off one of those passes in the back, but shot wide. The Tigers in the final few minutes regained control in the Wasp end. But they lost the ball, and a throw-in went to Woodstock’s Nikki Sardelli. She turned along the right sideline in her own territory and lofted a long ball down the middle of the field.
It went right to the streaking Tsouknakis, and the Tigers were caught by surprise. Tsouknakis converted the breakaway with 12.5 seconds to go to force overtime.
“I think we thought we had it in the bag and stopped playing for a minute, and they capitalized,” Leeds said. “Good for them for doing that. Hopefully that’s a good lesson learned for us.”
Early in the second overtime, Woodstock had a golden chance, and Fenster came up big. A corner kick came in from the left side, and a Wasp one-timed it back toward the right side of the goal. Fenster dove back to her right and blocked the shot, and Moulton cleared the ball out of bounds off a defender.
In the end, Leeds said she saw solid play from both sides.
“It was pretty good soccer,” she said. “It was a pretty good matchup.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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