MUHS boys’ lax works overtime to trim MMU and move to .500
MIDDLEBURY — After a couple of disappointing two-goal losses last week, the Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team bounced back on Monday to earn a victory over visiting Mount Mansfield and move back to .500 at 4-4.
But it wasn’t easy. The Tigers needed senior middie Ali Abdul Sater’s late goal to force overtime, and then a key defensive play to set up senior attacker Jack Hounchell’s game-winner 1:27 into the extra session as MUHS defeated the Cougars, 9-8.
The decisive play started when junior defender Brett Viens knocked the ball loose from a Cougar attacker, scooped it and fed junior middie Trey Kaufmann. Kaufmann carried down the right side, beat a defender and fed sophomore attacker Jack Donohue to the right of the goal.
Donohue drew the last defender and fed Hounchell at the far post. Hounchell threw one quick fake before depositing a low shot past Cougar goalie Will Macone for his second and more important goal of the game.
Hounchell insisted he had the easiest job in the Tigers’ winning coast-to-coast effort.
“That was nice. Trey Kaufmann, I was telling him to slow down because we didn’t have a break or anything. But he beat his guy, and my man slid to the guy he passed to, and I was wide open on the crease,” Hounchell said. “It wasn’t much of me doing anything. It was just catch and finish. It definitely was fun. It felt good to get the win for our team. It was definitely exciting.”
Viens’ timely forced turnover was not the only one caused by the Tiger defenders. After Abdul Sater spun off his man and tossed the tying goal home with 2:55 left in regulation, the Cougars won the faceoff and controlled possession before calling for time at 1:02 to set up a play. But with 34 seconds to go, sophomore defender Brian Kiernan whacked the ball loose from a Cougar attacker and scooped the ground ball to preserve the tie and send the game to overtime.
Tiger Coach Brian Carpenter praised all his defenders — Viens and sophomore Fyn Fernandez saw the most time, Kiernan and junior Parker Gross shared minutes, and senior Jerry Niemo and junior Nick Wilkerson excelled as long-stick middies — and in particular the critical plays to close out Monday’s game.
“The D has done a stellar job all season, and they stepped up when it really mattered,” Carpenter said. “They put the ball on the ground and got the ball up the field and gave us the opportunity to close that out.”
Doing so was vital for the Tigers after losing 12-10 at South Burlington on Saturday and 11-9 on Wednesday, and knowing St. Albans (which they defeated on the road, 9-8, on May 2) would be challenging them on a game played this Wednesday.
“It was definitely important. It was a pick-me-up for the guys to get one under the belt after a tough loss to South Burlington,” Hounchell said.
Monday’s game opened on a promising note — Abdul Sater whipped a long-range shot home on the Tigers’ first possession. But their offense did not generate good looks for the rest of the period, and Cougar Mason Bouffard scored at 3:51 to make it 1-1 after one quarter.
The second period turned into a penalty fest, with four assessed on the Cougars and three on the Tigers. The Tigers converted on the first man-up situation, at 10:38, with Hounchell setting up freshman Jake Peluso. The Tigers won the faceoff, and 28 seconds later Hounchell dodged in from the left side to make it 3-1.
The Lakers then took a penalty, and Macone (six saves) made good stops on Hounchell and Peluso to slow the MUHS momentum.
After Cougar Josh Brown scored a man-up goal at 6:56 and Donahue set up Peluso to make it 4-2 a minute later, the Cougars went on a three-goal run. After Brown scored twice, Dom Mosca put MMU on top, 5-4, at 2:34.
Kaufmann set up junior Spencer Carpenter for a turnaround shot in traffic shortly afterward, and the score stood at 5-5 at the half despite a penalty apiece in the final two minutes.
The teams traded goals in the third. Abdul Sater made it 6-5 in the first minute, but Brown tied the score a minute later. Donahue broke free on the right side and made it 7-6 at 5:49, but Mosca tossed home a man-up bomb past Tiger goalie Eli Miller (five saves) at 1:45, and it was 7-7 entering the fourth.
Both defenses held firm in the fourth period until 4:13, when Cougar freshman Jaden Elsinger squeezed a 20-foot shot home off Miller from the left side. But that effort just set up the late drama, and a boost for the Tigers’ morale.
“We had to get the W,” Carpenter said. “We needed something to get us moving back into the win column so the guys will start believing in themselves.”
Carpenter and Hounchell said once the Tigers develop a little more consistency on the offensive end they should start adding to that win total.
“We just have to work on finishing, and as the season goes along we’ll get much better,” Hounchell said.
Carpenter has also just shifted some personnel, including Spencer Carpenter to midfield and Kaufmann to attack, and believes that the changes will help.
“There are flashes that look really good,” Carpenter said. “They’re getting used to the different roles.”
The Tigers followed up Monday’s win with another victory on Wednesday, defeating visiting BFA-St. Albans, 11-5.
Hounchell scored five times and added an assist, and Kaufman added three goals and two assists to spark the Tigers as they moved to 5-4. Donahue, Peluso and Andrew Gleason chipped in a goal apiece, and Doug DeLorenzo took his turn in the Tiger goal and stopped nine shots.
James Konrad led the 3-4 Bobwhites with three goals, and BFA goalie Killian Shea-Smith made seven saves.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School sophomore Jackson Donahue fights for a ground ball during Monday’s game against Mt. Mansfield. Middlebury won the game, 9-8.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
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