Commodore boys’ lacrosse outlasts Eagles

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School boys’ lacrosse team earned a big win on Tuesday, staving off a dramatic rally by visiting Mount Abraham to prevail, 10-9.
The result left both teams tied for third place in Division III at 7-5, but the schedule favors the Commodores in the battle for the No. 3 seed.
Mount Abe has just one game left, vs. D-I title contender Rice at home on Thursday. The Eagles lost a game vs. D-III Montpelier (1-9) that was never made up. VUHS must play at D-II contender Stowe on Friday, but before then will play a makeup home game vs. Montpelier on Thursday that could allow the Commodores to seize third place.
The Vermont Principals’ Association will announce playoff pairings on Monday, and both teams will host playoff games. Stratton (9-3) and Hartford (7-3) were listed as Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in D-III on Wednesday morning. VUHS and Mount Abe have not played either of those teams this spring.
VUHS Coach Ed Cook said Tuesday’s result was critical for the Commodores, who can clinch the program’s first winning season with a win on Thursday. He also noted athletes from both VUHS and Mount Abe played youth lacrosse together in middle school.
“It’s always good to beat Mount Abe. They’re our biggest rival, and these guys are friends,” Cook said. “And it’s huge. We’ve got two games left going into the playoffs. Every win is a good win, but this is going to help us going into the next two.”
Coach Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Eagles were coming off losses to two D-II teams, and he was disappointed with their play in the first half, when they fell behind, 6-1, even if he was happier with the second half.
“You would think with the shortest bus ride in the world for a game we would not have the bus-itis,” Fitzpatrick said. “But they rallied. A lot of credit for that.”
Both goalies started strong, with Commodore senior Broc Clark (18 saves in all) denying senior attacker Lucas Richter twice and Eagle senior Tucker Paradee (eight stops total) blocking two bids by senior middle Tyler Kepes.
Then Kepes caught fire, scoring after two lengthy sprints late in the first period to make it 2-0 after one. The first, at 3:07, came after Kepes scooped a ground ball and went coast-to-coast, and the second, at 0:39, came at the tail end of a 50-yard dash.
Kepes completed his run of four goals in 5:55 as the second quarter opened, converting a feed from senior Tyler Crowningshield at 10:45 and then going end-to-end again at 9:12.
VUHS senior defender Hunter Mayshak (he and fellow senior defenders Jeb Hodsden, Jack Eisenhower and Brad Sturtevant all played well) then made a big play to help kill a two-minute penalty, and the Commodores took advantage of an Eagle penalty to make it 5-0 at 3:51: Crowningshield finished a feed from junior attacker Max Ratti-Bicknell.
Richter netted a sweet behind-the-back shot at 2:14 to break the ice for the Eagles as he was being fouled, but Commodore Gunnar Sunwaldt won the faceoff to help kill the penalty. And then Sturtevant surprised Mount Abe by bolting in from midfield at 1:06 to make it 6-1 at the half.
The Eagles quickly rallied in the third. Senior middie Charlie Meyer (three goals and two assists) scored at 9:49, and then senior Owein LaBarr (four assists) won the faceoff, bolted down the field and set up senior Dylan Weaver eight seconds later.
Kepes answered by finding the lower left corner at 9:00, but the Eagles had found their legs. With help from a two-minute penalty on VUHS, they scored three times between 6:16 and 4:42, two times up a man, to make it 7-6, VUHS. Meyer scored from sophomore Phoenix King, Weaver converted a LaBarr feed, and Richter nailed the far corner from the right side.
The Eagles tied the game at 2:49, when LaBarr found senior middie Sebastian Durante open on Clark’s doorstep. But VUHS emerged from the quarter with an 8-7 lead. Clark stopped Richter with the Eagles a man-up in the late going, Hodsden scooped the groundball, raced down the field and set up Crowningshield in transition. Crowningshield finished high for the score at 0:02 while being fouled.
And VUHS capitalized on the penalty at 11:12 of the fourth, when senior attacker Alex Krumrie took a feed from Ratti-Bicknell on the right side, spun and hit the far corner.
Mount Abe answered. At 9:52 Meyer set up Richter out front for his third goal, and at 9:06 Meyer curled from behind the goal to complete his hat trick, and it was 9-9.
Soon afterward, Clark denied Richter once again. Cook called Clark the difference in the game.
“Broc played amazing,” Cook said. “He was dialed in from the get-go.”
Ratti-Bicknell netted the game-winner at 5:37, dodging two defenders on the right side and bouncing home a low shot.
The Eagles had chances, thanks in part to ground ball wins by sophomore middie Sam Paradee. But Eisenhower recovered to get a stick on one Richter point-blank shot that then went high, and the Eagles couldn’t put pressured shots on goal as time wound down.
Fitzpatrick said he would have liked to see 48 minutes from his team.
“We should have played that way the first two quarters,” Fitzpatrick said. “This should have been a big win for us, but we failed to step up to the plate.”
But he also praised the Commodores.
“My hat’s off to Vergennes,” Fitzpatrick said.
Cook gave credit to the Eagles for bouncing back.
“Ryan is a great coach. I knew he would have his guys prepared,” Cook said. “And they came out, and they were hard. They wanted it, and they came right back in. They’re a good team.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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