Eagles vs. Tigers grapple to 11-1 draw in boys’ soccer
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury and Mount Abraham union high school teams both came away with things to be happy about and things to work on after Friday’s 1-1 tie in Middlebury.
MUHS Coach Reeves Livesay was pleased with the Tigers’ edge in play, particularly at midfield, something represented in their 27-12 advantage in shots at goal.
“In the first half we struggled a little bit finding feet, but that definitely got better in the second half, and I think we started moving the ball well,” Livesay said. “And that opened up some opportunities for us.”
The Tiger defense (seniors Lucas Pyle and Harlow Punderson in the middle, senior Eli Miller on one flank and the platoon of senior Jakub Kraus and sophomore Tucker Moulton on the other), which three days before had pitched a shutout in the program’s first win over Champlain Valley in 20 years, also held up well against dangerous Eagle forwards Jack Willis and Silas Burgess.
“Our defense, I think has really come together the last couple games and played very, very well,” Livesay said.
For the Eagles, their three-man defense of senior Owein LaBarr in the middle and juniors Eli Rickner and Jackson Counter on the flanks held up well against the Tiger possession, and pressured the Tiger shooters well enough to allow only seven on goal, six of which goalies Toby Bunch and Ethan DeWitt (three saves each) stopped.
“We’re going to live and die on our defense,” Corey said.
The downsides for both teams relate to those 20 Tiger shots not on goal. Livesay said for the Tigers to pick up the scoring pace they have to put balls on target, and not always be so reluctant to shoot.
“The key is first getting those shots on frame. We had good opportunities where we went for the perfect shot,” he said.
The fact that the Tigers were in position to shoot so often shows the work the young Eagle midfielders must do to slow their counterparts. On Saturday they struggled to contain their Tiger counterparts, although Eagle junior middie Sam Paradee again played well.
“We don’t match up well in the midfield,” Corey said. “We have skilled players in the midfield. They know what they’re supposed to do. It’s just sometimes really hard for them going up against strong, physical players.”
Play was most even in the scoreless first half, during which each team had three shots on goal, with Bunch and Tiger goalie Santiago Fernandez, both juniors, stopping them all.
Willis, a senior, and Burgess, a freshman, were dangerous on counterattacks for the Eagles, while the Tigers midfielders — notably seniors Sully Swearingen and Owen Hammel, sophomore Henry Hodde and freshman Eben Jackson — more patiently worked the ball to junior forwards Cam Simpson and J.D. Goettelmann and senior George McKeever-Parkes.
Bunch stopped Swearingen after a Jackson cross early on, and Simpson shot just high midway through the half. The Eagles best chance came in the 31st minute, when Fernandez tipped Eagle sophomore middie Weston Allred’s long shot over the crossbar.
After a 9-4 edge in shots in the first half, the Tigers outshot the Eagles, 13-4, in the second half. Hodde had a couple bids go wide early on, while at the other end Eagle sophomore William Wright struck two nice serves that his teammates couldn’t quite reach.
Simpson gave the Tigers the lead at 27:07. Swearingen sent in a ball from the right sideline that deflected to Simpson at the top of the box, and he turned and fired into the upper left corner.
The Tiger chances kept coming, and they kept just missing. Junior Jake Ingenthron shot a couple feet wide left in the 22nd minute, and Jackson headed wide from Miller in the 27th minute.
MOUNT ABRAHAM UNION High School junior Sam Paradee and Middlebury Union High School freshman Ebenezer Jackson battle for a loose ball.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Fernandez came off his line to break up one Burgess bid, but could do nothing with the equalizer. Allred sent the ball in from the left sideline. Burgess headed it back toward the left, and it deflected into the left side of the goal off a Tiger defender in the 32nd minute.
The Eagles pressed for a bit, and Hodde blocked a bid by sophomore Owen Maille. The Tigers had chances down the stretch, but again missed high, and it was on to overtime.
In the first 10 minutes Miller broke up one good Eagle threat, and Counter headed high on a corner kick. The best OT chance for both teams came in the second session. Hammel shot well from long range, but DeWitt jumped up and back to deflect it off the crossbar.
Corey was pleased to see his team battle through the Tiger pressure and come away with a positive result, and he still believes they have potential to be a dangerous group by the end of the season.
“I’m pretty excited to have a team that just keeps playing and just keeps working hard,” he said. “They don’t let the emotions or the ebb and flow get in their head. They just keep going.”
Livesay was happy with his team’s play in a game he called fun to watch.
“We came off a great win for us,” he said. “We were very emotional and excited about that, and then today we came and really started to play the type of game that we want to play as we move forward.”