Eagle boys’ soccer falls to Harwood, 2-0, in quarterfinal
BRISTOL — Visiting No. 5 Harwood on Saturday No. 4 Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ soccer team’s season by defeating the Eagles, 2-0, in a tense Division II quarterfinal.
The 9-1-3 Highlanders — unbeaten since an opening Sept. 10 loss — scored in the first half and made it stand up despite the 10-4-2 Eagles’ edge in possession, shots (13-7) and corner kicks (4-3).
Mount Abe coach Mike Corey said his team’s Achilles heel this fall has been lack of offensive spark — the Eagles scored 26 goals in 16 games, and only twice tallied more than two goals.
That issue surfaced on Saturday vs. a Harwood defense led by Harwood center back Shiv Seethipalli, who repeatedly headed the ball out of trouble; speedy flank back Caleb Hoyne; and fearless goalie Esteban Garcia-Guiance, who roamed far off his line to disrupt Eagle attacks.
“We played a pretty good game, but our story this year is just getting on the end of things in the box and finishing,” Corey said.
Corey praised his team’s effort. The Eagle midfield, with senior Charlie Meyer and sophomore Nick Catlin leading the way, constantly won 50-50 battles and pressured the Highlanders, while wing midfielders Sebastian Durante and Igor Grecmal made dangerous runs.
Defenders Owein LaBarr in the middle and Tucker Paradee and Eli Rickner on the flanks stepped up to win balls, snuffed out Harwood threats and allowed just four shots on goalie Nick Szczecinski (two saves).
“I’m really proud of my team. They battled, and I think it really could have been different,” Corey said. “They were two equally matched teams.”
The Eagles dominated the early going, but only generated one good chance in the first half, a combination between striker Jack Willis and Catlin in the ninth minute. The Eagles had three corner kicks, and Seethipalli headed the ball away twice.
Harwood began to threaten later the half, and Mount Abe dodged a bullet when Philip Hekeler missed left on a cross from Payton Randolph in the 28th minute.
At 1:59 Connor Woolley made no mistake on a feed from Austin Taylor. The Highlanders sent a long ball down the left side, and Taylor got there first and carried toward the left post, drawing two defenders. He fed Woolley near the penalty stripe for an easy finish.
“We were having a little trouble tracking that outside midfielder, and we gave him way too much space. He’s a talented player,” Corey said of Taylor.
The Eagles outshot the Highlanders, 10-3, in the second half, but true chances were few. Garcia-Guiance twice stopped Willis’s left-footed shots from eight yards, including a decent bid in the 12th minute. Durante got a head on a corner kick in the 31st minute, but Garcia-Guiance was right there to deny it.
Corey said the Highlanders’ defense was tough to crack, and at times the Eagles played into their hands by attacking down the center of the field.
“I think it’s smart sometimes, particularly with a lead, to give some space away in the middle and just have numbers behind the ball, and Harwood did just that,” Corey said. “We knew we needed to get the ball to the flanks and get more crosses, and we did fail to do that for the most part today. I think we were still a little too direct. But overall I was not disappointed with the performance. The effort was there.”
Eventually the Highlanders scored on a counterattack, with Woolley sending Aidan Schoelkopf in alone at 2:40 for the pad goal.
The Eagles had earned their berth in Saturday’s quarterfinal by rallying past No. 13 Lamoille on Wednesday, 4-1. With the 3-10-2 Lancers ahead, 1-0, early in the second half, Durante equalized, and Catlin scored two minutes later. Caleb Bonvouloir, who set up Catlin’s goal in the 47th minute, added two goals. Szczecinski stopped two shots for Mount Abe, and Marcus Holmes made five saves for Lamoille.
After a disappointing 2014, that result gave the Eagles their 10th win, a turnaround Corey credited to the Eagle seniors: Szczecinski, Rowan Warren, Matt Jackman, Durante, Paradee, Andrew Cloutier, team assist leader Dylan Weaver, Meyer, Lucas Richter and Grecmal.
“You don’t win 10 games every year, and I think that’s a great compliment to this group,” Corey said. “And I want to pay tribute to the seniors who were juniors last year, and particularly the captains, Charlie Meyer, Rowan and Tucker, they’re just great leaders.”