Mount Abe lacrosse outlasts Otter Valley

BRISTOL — The high-scoring Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ lacrosse team on Monday moved to 3-0, but it wasn’t easy. The Eagles had to survive a challenge from an improved Otter Valley squad to win, 15-11, in a physical game marked by 18 penalties.
The Eagles looked like they would coast when they took a 4-0 lead in the first 5:18, as senior middie Charlie Meyer scored three of his four goals, one of them courtesy of senior attacker Dylan Weaver’s three assists, and also set up one of Weaver’s two goals.
But the Otters served notice in their opener they would hang in there the rest of the way — after first-period goals from middies Collin Eugair and Will Ross and attacker Keenan Pratt (from attacker Colton Leno), it was 4-3 after one.
The Eagles used a big second quarter to lead by 11-5 at the break, but the Otters fought back to within three, 13-10, when Leno (a goal and three assists) deposited a Eugair feed with 6:53 to go in the fourth. Mount Abe finally put the game out of reach on goals by Sebastian Durante and Lucas Richter (five goals and three assists).
A year ago, OV went 1-15. Now things look to be on the upswing under first-year coach Jesse Milliman after the competitive matchup on Monday against the Eagles, who look to be one of the favorites in the new Division III.
“We didn’t execute the best, but I have a bunch of warriors on my team, and I’m the proudest coach in the world today. We came out and fought and battled,” Milliman said. “We’re going to get better, and we can’t wait to play these guys again in a few weeks.”
Eagle Coach Ryan Fitzpatrick agreed the Otters are improved.   
“This is night and day compared to last year when we played them,” Fitzpatrick said. “I give Coach a lot of credit. That’s a whole different squad right now. It was a great game.”
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick is liking what he sees in his Eagles, especially on the offensive end. After three games, they have scored 48 goals (including 18 vs. D-II U-32), with Richter one of many weapons.
“I’ll take that average any day,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re kicking on a different gear this year. The kids are feeling it.”
Monday’s second quarter proved to be the Eagles’ strongest. Meyer netted a man-up goal in the first minute, picking up a ground ball after OV freshman goalie Alec Stevens (11 saves) denied middie Sam Paradee. Richter made it 6-3 at 10:12 after Meyer found him open on the left side.
The Eagles then took back-to-back penalties (they committed 10 in all), and OV middie Colin Parker tossed in a bomb during the second one to make it 6-4 at 7:03.
Mount Abe then went on a 4-0 run in the 1:33. Owein Labarr (three goals, two assists), who won faceoffs all day, nabbed the next one, raced in and scored. Paradee then made a long run down the right side and set up Richter at the far post. Next the Eagles added a man-up goal, with Ryan Bonar feeding Labarr at the top of the OV box for a hard, long shot. Richter cut across the middle and set up Weaver at the left post at 5:27 to make it 10-4 and finish the run.
OV attacker Erik Sherman (two goals, three assists) cut in from the left side and whipped a bullet into the upper right corner shortly afterward to break the spell, and at 2:01 Richter capped the quarter by converting a Labarr feed from just outside the crease, and it was 11-5 at the break.
The OV defense of Trevor Lear, Rexal Bautista and Sean Martin tightened up in front of Stevens in the second half, and the Otters worked their way back in.
Pratt (three goals, one assist) and Eugair (two goals, an assist) scored early in the third quarter to make it 11-7, but then the Eagle defense of Will White-Pifer, Matt George and Pat Davison began to assert itself. The only other goal of the quarter came from Richter, and Mount Abe led by 12-7 entering the fourth.
The Otters kept coming, however. The teams traded goals early in the final period, with Leno setting up Pratt for OV and Weaver feeding Richter at 8:26. Then Ross won a draw for OV, and Tyson Cram’s shot just trickled over the line at 8:06 despite a good effort from Eagle goalie Tucker Paradee (eight saves). At 6:53, Eugair found Leno out front and he quick-sticked the ball home just before Paradee could intercept the pass, and it was 13-10.
But Labarr won the draw, and Durante bulled his way through the OV defense and scooped a shot home 27 seconds later to make it 14-10. At 3:12 Richter added a crucial pad goal, from Labarr. With 15 seconds to go, OV’s Sherman capped the scoring.
Milliman said his team blends young players ready to help and veterans who have worked to improve their play. 
“We have seven freshmen who came out, and we have three or four of them who are contributing right away. We have a very veteran team, so I was very fortunate to inherit those people, so we have a very nice base to build on,” he said. “And again, we’re just getting started.”
Fitzpatrick would like to see his Mount Abe defenders communicate more effectively and his offense, at least at times, show a little more patience. But he is confident the Eagles will be competitive, especially in the new Division III.
“We’re feeling good, three games in and 3-0,” he said. “We have goals that we’re going to go for.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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