Changes in Eagle defensive lineup pay off vs. Tiger girls’ soccer

MIDDLEBURY — An overtime penalty kick and a new formation that placed the team’s leading scorers from 2015 on defense led to a big win for the Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ soccer team on Saturday, 2-1 over host Middlebury.
Junior midfielder Casey Ober struck the game-winning PK with 3:46 left in the second 10-minute overtime, sending a solid shot into the right corner. Junior forward Abby Mansfield drew the penalty for Mount Abe by making a dangerous run into the left side of the Tiger box.
The goal ended a game in which the Tigers controlled much of the play, outshooting the Eagles by 19-11. But Mount Abe’s realigned defense and senior goalie Genysis Berube (eight saves) allowed only Tiger junior Andi Boe’s game-tying blast with 8:08 left in regulation.
That defense included senior Ernesta McIntosh and junior Lydia Pitts — who combined for 22 goals last fall — on the flanks and junior Emma LaRose at sweeper, all for the first time this season.
Coach Dustin Corrigan said the Eagles, who improved to 2-4, had been playing well, but giving up too many goals.
“The play was kind of even in those matches, but we were losing, 4-0, 2-0. We needed to do something different,” he said. “And I think it paid off big today. We certainly didn’t get as many chances as Middlebury did, but we were able to keep them off the scoresheet. And I think it had a lot to do with those players we had in the back today.”
McIntosh, a team captain who has swung back and forth between central midfield and striker for the Eagles for two seasons, said the Eagles, Division II champions two years ago and semifinalists in 2013 and 2015, needed Saturday’s result after their 1-4 start.
“It means a lot today. We definitely came together as a team and we gelled. I really think it’s a turning point for the season,” she said.
McIntosh said the Eagles were happy to try the new alignment.
“You never know when you get thrown into a new position and everything, but I feel like it really worked for the team,” she said. “Depending on which teams we play, I definitely can see this formation working in the future.”
The flip side is that Saturday was a disappointment for the Tigers, who after a slow start in the first half took control at midfield and had an edge in possession and chances. Coach Wendy Leeds was happy with the quality of their play.
 “We’re getting better each game, and we’re getting better from start to finish. Certainly today we got better as every minute went by,” Leeds said. “Overall I think we’re starting to connect better. We’re trusting each other more. We’re finding each other more.”
The Eagles scored on a corner kick eight minutes into the game. McIntosh served the ball from the left side. It bounced through a knot of players to junior midfielder Molly Funk, alone on the far side of the goal for the tap-in.
Chances were few in the first half, although the Tigers began to press in the final 10 minutes. McIntosh blocked a shot by Tiger junior Helen Anderson, and Berube tracked down a couple long bids from Anderson and Boe.
The Tigers picked up the pace after the break, with Boe and Anderson threatening again. But the best early chance came from the Eagles. Mansfield broke down the right side and looked to have a clear path to goal. But Tiger senior goalie Riley Fenster came out more than 20 yards to meet Mansfield and block the ball away.
The Tiger defense, solid in the first half except the corner kick, then buckled back down. Senior sweeper Darcy Staats, senior stopper Kess Moulton and junior flank back Satchel McLaughlin all defended well and moved the ball smartly into the attack. At midfield, senior Amelia Ingersoll, juniors Sierra Barnicle and Isabel Rosenberg, and sophomores Ada Anderson and Aileen Bosworth all helped keep the pressure on Mount Abe.
That pressure finally paid off when Boe found room in the middle of the field from 24 yards out and drilled a shot inside the right post to tie the game.
The Tigers had a series of chances in the final 8:00. Bosworth fired just high after a misplay in the Mount Abe box, and MUHS also earned three corner kicks. The Eagle defense blocked a Bosworth bid on the first, and junior forward Emma Carter cleared the ball out of harm’s way on the final two. 
Carter and junior forward Grace Norman threatened late, but McLaughlin broke up the play, and it was on to overtime.
Boe had two shots in the first 10-minute session, but Berube snagged one and the defense blocked the other. Mansfield almost won it for Mount Abe on a corner kick early in second OT, but her header on a McIntosh corner kick went just high. Then the Tigers sent in Anderson alone on Berube near the left post, but Berube cut down the angle and blocked Anderson’s left-footed shot.
Fenster then came out to deny a Mansfield run a minute later, but could do nothing with Ober’s well-struck PK that decided matters.
Corrigan agreed it was a must-win for the Eagles.
“We were 1-4 going into it, and we really wanted to get a win against a good opponent,” he said. “I think this does a lot for the girls to know we can beat a really good opponent. This was huge for us.”
Leeds praised the Tigers’ attitude after a tough loss.
“They’re just saying, that was a fun game. That was great soccer,” she said. “And that’s what you want to hear them say after a game like this.”

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