Eagle girls’ soccer holds on to win rematch with MUHS

BRISTOL — In a Tuesday high school girls’ soccer game that saw momentum switches, host Mount Abraham scored early and came away with a 1-0 victory after surviving stretches during which Middlebury controlled play.
Both teams entered Tuesday faring well this season after slow starts. The defending Division II champion Eagles improved to 5-6 with their fifth win in six games since falling to 1-5 with a loss at MUHS on Sept. 19. Their only setback in that streak was a 2-1 loss to D-II’s top team, Milton.
“We’re moving forward, and it’s good to because the playoffs are just around the corner,” said Eagle Coach Dustin Corrigan.
Coach Wendy Leeds’ Tigers had won four of five to move over .500 before their visit to Bristol, but Tuesday’s result dropped them to 5-5-1.
Leeds’ team had a 9-6 edge in shots on goal, but saw Eagle senior goalie Kamille Snell make some tough stops while working a nine-save shutout.
“We failed to capitalize a couple times when we really should have,” Leeds said.
She was pleased her midfielders, notably Kelsey Smith, Helen Anderson and Julia Vorsteveld, helped the Tigers control much of play, something that has been a team strength in the recent surge.
“I am overall very happy,” Leeds said. “The play is good. We’re heading in the right direction.”
The Eagles looked hungry as the game opened, and Tiger goalie Molly Campbell (five saves) did well to block a pair of Casey Ober bids from close range in the fourth minute. In the sixth minute, it looked like Eagle left wing Lydia Pitts was going to dribble around Campbell and tap the ball home, but the goalie snatched the ball away at the final second.
But with 12 minutes gone, Pitts, a thorn in the Tigers’ side all game, won a battle for an Ober serve into the left side of the box and then pinged in a shot off the right post to put Mount Abe on top.
Then the Tigers began to find their legs. Snell stopped an Andi Boe free kick in the 16th minute, and in the 20th minute Payton Buxton’s bid sailed just past the left post, with Vorsteveld inches away from a tap-in.
Corrigan credited the MUHS midfield for creating chances for the Tiger forwards.
“The game was very well-played,” Corrigan said. “I think Middlebury’s got the best midfield of anybody we’ve played so far. I think they outplayed us in that area of the field for sure.”
The Eagles came back to seize the momentum as the half wound down. Abby Mansfield couldn’t quite get a well-struck Nesta McIntosh serve from the left on net in the 32nd minute, and in the 38th minute McIntosh served up a corner kick that Ober nailed just wide.
The Tigers earned a 10-2 advantage in shots at goal in the first 30 minutes of the second half. Snell made arguably the save of the game in the third minute. Tiger Hannah Lawrence dropped a ball into the Eagle box from the left side, and in a scramble Boe lined up a shot from near the penalty stripe. But Snell lunged to her right to knock the ball wide.
Middlebury’s next great chance came in the 19th minute, when Snell came out to stop middie Riley Fenster at the left post on a corner kick. Two minutes later Snell bobbled momentarily on another corner kick with the Tigers lurking, but recovered quickly.
Fenster also missed wide right by inches after a taking a long Smith direct kick from the right sideline in the 23rd minute, and Boe broke free in the box in the 33rd minute and drilled a bullet, only to see Snell perfectly positioned to catch it cleanly.
“Our goalkeeper came up with some really big saves at times to keep us in it,” Corrigan said.
The Eagles took charge again for the final few minutes. Eagle defenders Jessie McKean, Anna Hauman, Finnian Brokaw and Hannah Funk all did good work to help Snell keep the Tigers off the board.
Leeds said the Tigers have done better recently in cashing in their chances, but will continue to focus on that part of their game.
“We’re still not finishing as much as I’d like to see us finish,” she said. “We have done well with some opportunities that have come our way, and that’s been evident in some of those games we have won against tougher teams. But we still have work to do there.”
Corrigan said Pitts, Ober, Mansfield and McIntosh have started to find the net for the Eagles, and those early one-goal losses have started to become victories.
“I was really proud my girls were able to weather the storm and finish on the chance we got,” Corrigan said. “We got a couple of other chances we could have done a little better with. We’re been working really hard at practice on our play on the final third and on our finishing, and we’ve been starting to score some goals in recent games, and I think that helped us get the result today.”
He also noted that injured players Zoe Cassels-Brown, an all-star goalie who will now play forward and midfielder, and middie Caroline McArdle have returned for the stretch run and playoffs.   
“Some of these girls that were injured for a long time are back now, too,” Corrigan said. “What this team has got is grit, and you can do a lot with that.” 

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