Commodore girls’ soccer have off day versus Rice

VERGENNES — Despite injuries, the Vergennes Union High School girls’ soccer team has been competitive in all of its games this fall and won three of them.
Unfortunately, Tuesday’s home game vs. Rice was an exception. The Division I Green Knights (4-2) got two early scores that might have taken the wind out of the Commodores’ sails, and Rice coasted to a 6-0 victory.
The Commodores fell to 3-4. Two of those losses had been by one goal, and the team had played well in a 2-0 setback against 6-1 Milton on Saturday.
Co-coach Dwight Irish said he had been expecting another close game, but now the Commodores would have to regroup and learn from Tuesday’s setback — especially not to get discouraged if they fall behind after 74 seconds, as they did vs. Rice.
“You’ve got to show up with energy and effort, that was a piece of it, and just not panic a goal in,” Irish said. “Saturday when we played Milton it was like a different team. I think the goal put us on our heels, and I don’t think we recovered, and we were a step or two or three behind.”
Certainly, injuries have hurt the Commodores’ cause. Senior defender Julia Johnson returned to the lineup on Tuesday, and senior middie Annika Vorsteveld is trying to recover from injury and played limited minutes.
Senior defender Sara Stearns might not return this season after an early injury, and junior Caroline Johnston is out indefinitely after hurting her shoulder during the Commodores’ 2-0 win at Missisquoi on Sept. 14.
“We miss Caroline. She’s the one that makes us play calmer,” Irish said, adding of the injuries overall, “It’s disappointing, because we were feeling pretty good and playing well.”
Maybe nothing would have stopped Rice on Tuesday. The Green Knights moved the ball well, finished, and pressured the Commodores relentlessly at midfield.
And they converted their first chance. Middie Margot Rathke lobbed a long ball that perfectly led Sarah Boland behind the VUHS defense and in alone on VUHS goalie Anya Sonwalt (11 saves). Boland finished into the lower right corner.
Nine minutes in, Boland made it 2-0. She was allowed too much room at the top of the box and found the lower left corner; again, Sonwalt had no chance. Midway through the half, Rice found Saige Alpeter alone on the left side of the box, and she hit the right corner. At 14:13, Rathke lofted a direct kick from the right side into the far corner, and Rice led at the half, 4-0.
VUHS did force Rice first-half goalie Abi Jacunski to make two saves. Ciara McKay, Kaitlyn Brace, and Felicia Armell were most active on the attack in the half, during which Rice outshot VUHS, 13-4. Sonwalt made two nice stops on Taylor Gauthier late in the half.
The Commodore defense made life tougher on the Green Knights in the second half, and although they added another 13 shots, they were lower-percentage efforts. Megan Rooney, Julia Johnson and Kareena Vorsteveld, moved back to sweeper from midfield for a stretch, played well in the back, and Sonwalt came smartly out to snuff a bid by Elizabeth DeLuca.
Rice added two goals on corner kicks, one that deflected in off a VUHS defender for an own goal, and one a strong one-time strike by Grace Miller from Rathke.
VUHS showed signs of offensive life as the half wore on. A serve from McClay to Brace just missed connecting, and Rice’s second-half goalie Hannah Miller had to make five saves, including bids by McClay and Shelby Gage.
The Commodores had a chance to break the ice in the waning seconds, when Kareena Vorsteveld, back at midfield, picked off a pass and went into the box with McClay. But Miller denied McClay’s bid with about 15 seconds to go.
Afterward, Irish focused on what had gone right before Tuesday.
 “A three-game winning streak, we haven’t done that in a while,” Irish said. “Missisquoi, we played well. In the first half I don’t think they crossed midfield.”
To get back to that level of play, he said, the Commodores must start marking tighter in the back, and most importantly regain their poise and confidence.
 “The key will be realizing that we are OK, and that we just have some things to fix,” Irish said. “That’s what we even learned from our first couple games, that we had a couple things to fix, and it righted the ship a little bit and we started playing a little better. And I still think we’ll be fine.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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