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VUHS girls’ soccer shows promise in season opener

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School girls’ soccer season got off to a promising start on Saturday, when the Commodores controlled most of the play vs. visiting Green Mountain Valley School and earned a 1-0 victory.
The Commodores in particular dominated the first half of the opener for both teams. They outshot the Gumbies, 10-0, in the first 40 minutes and scored the game’s only goal.
That came at 11:34, when perfectly positioned junior forward Kaitlyn Brace popped a rebound into an open net. Sophomore forward Ciara McClay did a lot of the work, turning on a defender at the top of the GMVS box and firing a hard shot at Gumby backup goalie Rebecca Arencibia. Arencibia couldn’t control the ball, and it bounced to Brace for the conversion.
It could easily have been 2-0 already. McClay’s high drive from the right side of the box beat the starting GMVS goalie in the opening minute, but hit the crossbar. And in the 21st minute, senior center midfielder Caroline Johnston sent in freshman center middie Emily Rooney alone on the Gumby goal, but the keeper came out to make her only save. She was injured on the play, however, and Arencibia (seven saves) finished up.
The Commodores had other chances, particularly in the first half. Brace and McClay combined well in the 12th and 13th minutes, and McClay missed just wide on the second try. Brace and McClay were particularly effective winning 50-50 balls from GMVS defenders.
Johnston had a couple good looks, but shot high twice. She and Rooney got plenty of help from the other VUHS middies — seniors Annika Vorsteveld, Olivia Fournier, Shelby Gage, Aliya Hugo and Shay Pouliot — to keep the ball in the GMVS end.
When the ball did reach the VUHS end, senior sweeper Megan Rooney, junior stopper Emma Husk and the outside backs — senior Lexi Brace and sophomores Hannah Paquette and Rayven Perkins — worked it back crisply to the midfielders.
The tide turned a bit after the break, although VUHS still outshot GMVS, 10-5. But the Gumbies settled in defensively, with back Lindsey Crowell especially breaking up plays and working her way upfield to create chances.
Gumby Alexandra Manning had a couple of those chances, one of which proved easy for VUHS junior goalie Anya Sonwaldt to handle in the half’s 10th minute, and one more dangerous bid that Lexi Brace did well to block in the 17th minute.
A minute later, Sonwaldt dove to her right to knock away Cat Krupka’s 22-yard blast. That play drew post-game praise from Co-Coach Dwight Irish.
“You’re not getting much action, and then you’re called on to make that big one. That was huge,” Irish said.
In the half, the Gumbies were more often getting to balls first and winning 50-50 battles. Megan Rooney broke up a number of plays, while Husk came up with a key blocked shot in the 32nd minute, after which Rooney cleared the ball out of trouble.
But the Commodores came on strong again late, with Kaitlin Brace and Husk forcing Arencibia to make saves in the final minute.
Johnston said afterward there was a lot for the Commodores to like in their opener, and some things to learn.
“We definitely had some good moments in there, some good passes, some good through balls, definitely some good shots,” said the senior midfielder. “We just need to work on composure, because we get a little freaked out and hectic when we’re winning and they could get a goal and tie it up. But I think in the end we did really well and it’s a good start for the season.”
Irish said he expects the Commodores to grow as the season progresses and regain their poise in similar situations.
“You hope to have one or two girls on the field that can calm them somehow, because once it gets frantic it’s not pretty,” he said. “We learned a lesson and came away with a win, so that’s a plus.”
Irish also said he the team’s fitness would improve in the weeks to come, allowing it to handle late-game situations better. Overall, he found plenty to be happy about.
“I liked our possession out of the midfield the best. Our forwards were a little better up front making runs and creating chances,” Irish said. “The ball movement is the biggest thing that stands out to me, the ability to combine.”
Johnston said the Commodores have experience and they are optimistic for a competitive season after injuries contributed to a disappointing 2015.
“There are eight seniors this year,” she said. “We have some young girls coming up, which will be awesome. We have some definitely good experience and some girls who played all year. And we did injury prevention, so I think we’re ready. Last year was a little rough. A lot of us were hurt. But I think this year we’ll be able to pull it together and be a good team.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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