Eaqle boys’ soccer shows promise, but falls to Milton
BRISTOL — Visiting Milton scored early and late to earn a 2-1 victory over the Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ soccer team on Tuesday, but Eagle Coach Mike Corey was not unhappy afterward about his inexperienced group’s effort.
The senior-laden Milton squad improved to 3-2, with those losses coming on the road in close games to Division I teams with winning records, while Corey’s Eagles — starting only three seniors — dropped to 2-2.
“They did everything I could expect of them and more against a quality team like Milton at this stage of the season,” Corey said.
Corey was happy that his midfielders and backs defended well — in a formation that used three defenders and five in the midfield — and did not allow the Yellowjackets to create consistent pressure.
Milton did threaten with longer balls sent through and over the defense, but the Eagles — notably junior flank defender Eli Rickner, senior central defender Owein Labarr, and freshman goalie Ethan DeWitt (four saves in the second half) — for the most part did a good job of snuffing out those challenges.
“We stayed pretty well organized. Broke down a couple times in the back, but we had some speed to save our bacon,” Corey said.
Corey acknowledged the Eagle midfielders did not excel at creating threats against a veteran Milton defense led by sweeper Spencer Marquis, but they did disrupt the Yellowjackets at midfield and more than hold their own in competing for 50-50 balls. Juniors Sam Paradee and William Schoenhuber and sophomores Owen Maille and Kai Dobek probably fared the best among the Eagle middies.
The 3-5-2 formation also helped slow Milton at midfield, Corey said.
“I thought that was helpful today, because there seemed not to be those huge holes where they could just do whatever they wanted to do,” he said.
Unfortunately, one of the Eagles’ mistakes came 38 seconds into the game. Milton sent Jack Battistoni into the right corner, and from the end line he served to the goal mouth over Eagle junior first half goalie Toby Bunch (two saves). Milton forward Carson Bianchi sealed off a defender and one-timed the ball home.
The Eagles earned a slight advantage in possession in the half, and Eagle forwards Jack Willis, a senior, and Silas Burgess, a freshman, created pressure, but only one shot on goal that Milton keeper Alex Dooley handled easily. Dobek created a threat late in the half, dribbling to goal from the left side, but a defender blocked his bid out of bounds.
Milton’s Cameron Goodrich hit the bottom of the crossbar midway through the half, and Labarr cleared the ball off the line. Rickner broke up one Bianchi bid, and Bunch came out to deny a Bianchi breakaway, after which Eagle junior back Jackson Counter beat Bianchi to the rebound.
Milton came out firing in the second half, and DeWitt made a couple of diving stops early, one on Bianchi. The Eagles nearly tied the game in the 18th minute, when Labarr sent a free kick straight down the middle to Schoenhuber near the Milton penalty stripe. Schoenhuber nodded the ball backward over a defender and the backpedaling Dooley, but the ball looped just over the crossbar.
With 12:57 to go, the Eagles equalized. One of Counter’s many dangerous long throw-ins from the right side squirted past Dooley at the near post and into a crowd, from which Willis tapped it home.
Bianchi hit the crossbar again a minute later, and two minutes after that the Milton defense blocked a Labarr bid on a Willis corner kick.
Corey switched to three men up front, and with seven minutes to go sophomore Allred Weston served from the left side to Burgess near the penalty stripe, but his left-footed one-timer went just wide right. Shortly afterward, Marquis broke up a strong Willis run.
“We got the ball down there a couple times and were kind of a touch away a couple times,” Corey said.
Then the Yellowjackets countered and forced one of their seven corner kicks (to four for the Eagles). This time, they converted on a ball sent in from the right side, with Alex Hanna first to the ball in a scramble to knock it in with 2:24 to go. Milton controlled play in the final minutes to lock down the win and finish with a 16-10 edge in shots at goal.
Corey said he would continue to tinker with midfield lineups and formations, but was happy with the progress his young team has shown in the early going.
“Many of the things we’ve done in training recently they actually did on the field,” he said. “I’m very optimistic we’re going to be competitive throughout the year.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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