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Victory versus Rutland moves Tigers lacrosse to 1-1

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team finally opened its season last week, splitting a pair of home games on Fucile Community Field.
On Wednesday, Essex earned a 9-5 victory, and on Saturday the Tigers outlasted Rutland, 5-4, getting the late game-winning goal in transition from junior middie Trey Kaufman, who netted a feed from senior attacker Jack Hounchell.
Saturday’s result gave first-year coach Brian Carpenter his first varsity coaching victory.
Carpenter said he saw positives in the two games. He cited solid work from his low defense of juniors Nick Wilkerson and Brett Viens and sophomores Fyn Fernandez and Brian Kiernan, and senior long-stick middie Jerry Niemo. Against Rutland, uncontested shots on the Tiger goalies were rare. Senior middies Ali Abdul Sater and Nick Coe and junior middie Andrew Gleason also did well defensively on Saturday.
“In any settled situation we really did a good job of playing the man,” Carpenter said on Saturday.
Junior goalies Eli Miller and Doug DeLorenzo also played well. Eli Tucker played the first half against Essex and allowed five goals and made five saves, and in the second half vs. the Raiders je made eight saves while allowing three goals. DeLorenzo, made eight saves and allowed four scores in Wednesday’s second half, and stopped seven shots while allowing one goal vs. Rutland.
Carpenter said at least for now the goalies will share the job.
“They’re both playing really well,” he said. “They’ve both earned an opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Carpenter acknowledged he would like to see the Tigers score more than five goals per game. 
“We’ve got a couple things we’re going to work on,” he said.
Carpenter believes some of the issues will work themselves out when he and assistants Dave Donahue and Booth Hodde iron out lineup kinks, particularly by identifying the right groups to play together at midfield and allowing them to develop cohesion and the proper mix of offense and defense.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can get the lines to balance,” he said.
The Tigers have also tended to wear down in games — Rutland dominated ground balls in Saturday’s second half, a factor as the Raiders rallied from a 4-1 halftime hole to tie the game before the Tigers’ late strike.
Carpenter said more poise and fewer turnovers on offense will help, as will the coaches’ ability to work more players into the lineup as the season progresses.
“Maybe we have to slow the game down so the guys keep some fresh legs,” he said. “If we can get our settled offense a little better, then our guys won’t be running up and down the field as much. We gave the ball away too many times today.”
Vs. Essex, Spencer Carpenter led MUHS with two goals, and Hounchell, Kaufmann and Jake Peluso added one apiece. Niemo scooped seven ground balls, and Gleason and Abdul Sater picked up five each. While the Tiger goalies combined for a dozen stops, the Hornets’ Avery Lanphere made three saves. Henry Adams sparked the Essex offense with four goals.
TIGER JUNIOR SPENCER Carpenter cuts around two Essex defenders in Middlebury last Wednesday afternoon. Middlebury lost the game, 9-5.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
On Saturday vs. the Raiders, the Tigers got off to a quick start. Abdul Sater helped them win four of five first-quarter draws as they took a 3-1 lead after the first quarter.
Kaufmann started the scoring by tossing in a bomb from the top of the Hornet defense 52 seconds into the game. At 9:10 sophomore attacker Jackson Donohue made it 2-0, cutting in from the right side after taking a transition feed from Kaufmann.
At 0:29, senior attacker River Payne made it 3-0 from just outside the crease, converting a pass Donahue threaded in from the right. Essex then won its only draw of the quarter, and Connor Balestra made it 3-1 at 0:07 with an assist from Ben Davine.
At 10:35 of the second, Hounchell’s unassisted man-up goal made it 4-1, and the Tigers appeared ready to coast. But Raider goalie Kevin Macfarlane made stops on Abdul Sater and Hounchell, and the Tigers — like Rutland — had trouble hanging onto the ball. The teams’ best chances came in the final minute, when DeLorenzo made a kick save on Jacob Sabourin at one end, and then Macfarlane blocked Peluso’s point-blank underhanded bid at the other.
The Raiders controlled the third period and cut the lead to 4-3. Bobby Bergen got the first score of the quarter, a high shot that deflected in past Miller off a Tiger stick. At 7:09, Balestra curled from behind the net and converted from close range. Miller denied Davine with the Raiders a man up with five minutes to go, and twice stopped Balestra in the final minute.
But at 9:00 of the fourth, Balestra made it 4-4 after another Raider ground ball win, netting a pass from Bergen.
Finally, after a Miller save, the Tigers broke out in transition and caught the Raiders flat-footed. Hounchell moved in on the Raider goal with one defender back and Kaufmann to his left and dished to Kaufmann for the high finish at 2:00.
Both teams turned the ball over in the final two minutes, but Kaufmann and finally Niemo won ground balls to seal the win.
Carpenter hopes to see more of those results as he and coaches fit the pieces together. 
“We’ve got some real talented players,” he said. “We’re putting it together as a team, still.” 

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