Tiger boys’ lacrosse falls short vs. Rebels

MIDDLEBURY — On Monday, for the second straight game the Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team gave a Division I power all it could handle, but came up just short, this time to third-ranked South Burlington, 8-7.
Two days before, the 6-8 Tigers lost to visiting first-place Champlain Valley, 7-6. And that result followed a convincing, 9-5 win at Mount Mansfield, a team the Tigers needed overtime to defeat at home on May 9.
“We have looked like a totally different team the last three, four games. We’re playing very unselfishly and moving the ball, and it’s more difficult to defend us,” said Coach Brian Carpenter. “And we’ve moved to a zone defense so that if the other team has some faster kids than us, we just play some good solid defense with good support, fast support. And I think those two things have been lynchpins to the improvement.”
That defense has been strong all season, even before allowing just 20 goals in the Tigers’ past three games. Only five times in 14 games have opponents scored in double figures against MUHS.
Credit goes to junior goalies Doug DeLorenzo and Eli Miller, senior long-stick middie Jerry Niemo, senior defender Parker Gross, junior defender Nick Wilkerson, sophomore defenders Fyn Fernandez and Brian Kiernan, and the midfielders who take turns in the back third defending their counterparts.
Against the 11-3 Rebels on Monday, the Tigers routinely forced turnovers and allowed only 13 shots on the goalies; Miller stopped one shot in the first half, and DeLorenzo made four saves after the break.
The Rebels took a 4-2 lead in the first quarter before the Tigers fought back in the second period to cut it to 5-4 going into the break. Kyle Murakami scored two times for the Rebels in the first half, and Jack Baldwin scored twice and Max Capano tossed in one.
The Tigers countered with a goal apiece from Henry Hodde, Jack Hounchell, River Payne and Jake Peluso, and assists from Ali Abdul Sater, Trey Kaufmann and Jack Donahue.
The second half became a defensive struggle, with the Tigers constantly forcing turnovers, but also being a little too careless with the ball themselves. Carpenter said the Tigers’ inexperience still shows up in ball-control miscues.
“It’s a sign of a young team,” he said. 
The Tigers knotted the score at 5-5 at 8:02 of the third on a Hounchell goal assisted by Abdul Sater, but Murakami restored the Rebel lead 31 seconds later as the Tigers committed a penalty. Niemo blocked a shot to help the Tigers kill off the infraction, and a couple minutes later DeLorenzo made a big save on Nick Liscinsky. That meant Jake Peluso’s man-up goal at 3:41, from Hounchell, tied the game again, and it was 6-6 entering the fourth period.
Murakami tossed home two bullets early in the final quarter, the second coming at 9:24, and the Rebels led by 8-6. Midway through the period, Kaufmann found the lower left corner from the top of the defense to make it 8-7, with an assist from Donahue.
The Tigers had chances the rest of the way. Rebel goalie Ryan Hockenbury (eight saves) made a big short-side stop on Donahue at the six-minute mark (DeLorenzo denied both Liscinsky and Murakami shortly afterward), and the Tigers had plenty of possessions down the stretch, but had trouble getting good looks on goal and hanging onto the ball.
Carpenter said the Tigers are oh-so-close to establishing themselves as a top team.
“Each game it’s something different. We miss a golden opportunity. We have a younger team, and it’s recognizing when that opportunity to go arises. At the end, we had a couple opportunities, and we held off,” he said. “We’ve got two more games to figure it out and get ready for the playoffs.”
Also contributing for MUHS statistically on Monday were Niemo, who scooped a team-high seven groundballs, and Spencer Carpenter, who picked up five.
Those last two games come vs. three-win Colchester and winless Spaulding, giving the Tigers a good shot at .500 entering the playoffs. More importantly, Carpenter said, he sees them improving and developing faith in their ability.
“They’re proving to themselves they can play at this level,” said Coach Brian Carpenter. “They’re developing confidence in their own teammates. They’re playing much better as a team.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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