MUHS boys’ soccer outscores Commodores

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer team erupted for a season-high number of goals on a rainy Tuesday, and ultimately needed almost all of them to earn a 5-3 victory over visiting Vergennes.
The Tigers struck early, scoring on their first shot, and built a 5-1 lead with 10:07 to go on Joao Pedro Ribeiro’s second goal of the game.
The Commodores answered with two goals in less than a minute, the second coming from senior midfielder Aaron Gaines at 6:47 before the rally fizzled.
MUHS moved to 2-5-1, with two wins in their past three outings. On Tuesday, the Tigers controlled most of the action and earned a 20-14 advantage in shots, with most of those bids of higher quality than the Commodores’, especially in the first 60 minutes. Midfielders Duncan McCabe, Drew Barnicle, Owen Hammel, Joseph Vanacore, Lucas Pyle, Ross Crowne and Henry Hodde all played well offensively and defensively for MUHS.
“I was pleased with how we played,” MUHS coach Reeves Livesay said. “I think we really looked to move the ball quickly, and we looked to move it out wide, and I thought we generated some dangerous opportunities from getting the ball out wide.”
Livesay also credited the Commodores for fighting to the end.
“I thought Vergennes did a great job all the way to the finish. They didn’t let up at any point,” he said. “They really earned the last couple goals.”
VUHS coach Kevin Hayes, whose team dropped to 2-6 and will host Mount Abraham on Friday, had similar takes. He said the Tigers’ edge at midfield proved decisive, just as his team’s play at midfield had keyed VUHS this past Saturday vs. Missisquoi.
“You’ve got to hand it to Middlebury. They played well. They moved the ball well in the middle. We lost the middle. We weren’t as strong in the middle as we were on Saturday,” Hayes said. “We just got cut up a few times.”
At the same time, Hayes said he was proud of the Commodores’ 80-minute effort, and pleased that Gaines and junior midfielder Max Ratti-Bicknell, who set up the Commodores’ second goal, sparked their team’s late charge.
“They were showing some fight at the end, which I appreciated,” Hayes said. “That’s what Saturday was about, those two characters in the middle. They really got the grittiness going. Hopefully we can carry that into Friday against Mount Abe.”
On Tuesday, MUHS struck quickly. Hammel sent striker Jon Fitzcharles into the left side of the box, and Fitzcharles grounded an 18-yard shot inside the far post with 1:24 gone.
VUHS goalie Antonio Ruggiero (eight saves) twice stopped forward George McKeever-Parkes in the next few minutes, and came off his line to beat McCabe to a ball. At the other end, Gaines shot high on a direct kick.
Soon after Barnicle rang the right post the Tigers made it 2-0 at 13:28. McCabe slid the ball to Nick Holmes, normally a defender but taking a stint at midfield, at the top of the VUHS box. Holmes touched the ball to his left along the line and then left-footed the ball inside the right post.
The Commodores pressed as the first half wore down and earned three corner kicks, all of which were well struck by Tinder Kiely. Tiger goalie Wilder Perera (six saves) stopped an Ezekiel Palmer header on one of them and also denied another Palmer bid.
The Tigers came back at VUHS after the half and scored twice in the first 15 minutes. At 25:05, the Commodores failed to clear the wet ball decisively, and after a scramble McCabe picked it up and set up a Ribeiro blast inside the box.
J.D. Goettelmann made it 4-0 at 25:05. The play started with a Barnicle serve from the left. McKeever-Parkes and a defender scuffled for the ball near the left post, and it bounced to Goettelmann about 16 yards out; he buried it in the left side.
The Commodores began again to fight back. A serve from Kiely to Ethan Sausville just missed in the 21st minute, and at 18:19 Palmer lofted a long shot that Perera got a hand on, but could not stop from trickling over the line to make it 4-1.
Ribeiro countered at 10:07 with a strong run down the middle beautifully read and set up by defender Cole Gregory, and it was 5-1.
Three minutes later, Ratti-Bicknell carried past a defender to the right end line and served to the near corner, where Sausville — a backup goalie pressed into action because of Commodore injuries — rammed it home. At 6:47, Gaines converted another long shot over Perera, and it was a two-goal game. But an MUHS defense anchored by Nick Wilkerson and Harlow Punderson settled back down and the Tigers held on for the win.
Livesay said his team has for the most part been playing well defensively, and has been improving steadily on offense.
“We’re moving the ball more quickly, and we’re a little more purposeful on how we’re moving the ball,” Livesay said. “There’s a plan on how we want to attack and where we want to go.”
As well as missing injured players, VUHS was without leading scorer Camden Simpson, who Hayes said has decided to transfer to MUHS. “He’s coming down. I’m wishing him well,” Hayes said. “His mom said it’s academics.”
Moving forward, Hayes said, his team will have to rely more on ball movement and teamwork without the speedy Simpson to spark the attack. And overall, he said, they will have to play more aggressively at midfield.
“The back four can’t deal with no pressure on the ball in the middle, and that’s what worked on Saturday, pressing the ball in the middle,” he said. “We’ve got to work that out.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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