Eagle boys’ soccer works overtime to best the Commodores
VERGENNES — In a Tuesday game with momentum shifts, the Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ soccer team pulled out a 4-3 win in overtime over rival Vergennes, avenging a one-goal loss to the Commodores two weeks earlier.
Eagle sophomore William Wright put senior Keion Correll’s serve into the VUHS net 2:24 into overtime for the finishing touch.
Wright’s strike came after Commodore senior midfielder Max Ratti-Bicknell had twice erased Eagle leads in the second half by converting crosses from junior middie Lance Bergmans.
The Eagles had taken a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes on goals by senior back Owein LaBarr and freshman striker Silas Burgess despite being outplayed for most of the first half. A penalty kick by VUHS junior back Ben Kayhart gave the Commodores a first-half lead, and a blast by Eagle sophomore middie Owen Maille briefly put his team on top in the second half.
The loss dropped Coach Kevin Hayes’ Commodores to 5-7-1 and prevented them from clinching Division II’s No. 8 seed for next week’s playoffs. Hayes was pleased with the Commodores’ ability to control stretches of play, something they were unable to do in Bristol on Oct. 13 despite escaping with a win, but less happy with surrendering two goals late in the first half.
“I said to the guys for 60 minutes of every game we’re really one of the strongest teams. It’s just 20 minutes of lapses, and we lapsed at the end of the first half,” he said. “They played the way they can play and got some nice goals in the second half.”
Granted the competition has been tough — Milton, D-II’s top team, and D-I Rice — but VUHS has surrendered 11 goals in three games. Hayes said the Commodores must tighten up.
“In the last week we haven’t been able to keep the ball out of the net. We’re a little loose in the back. We’ve got to know where the danger’s coming from,” Hayes said.
Eagle Coach Mike Corey sees progress from a 4-7-1 team that included two freshmen and two sophomores in its starting lineup; has now scored nine goals in two games, both wins; and played well in losses to Middlebury and VUHS previously.
“What’s great is that I’m now seeing guys execute what we’ve been trying to do in training,” Corey said. “We had good shape going forward. We had numbers going forward, and actually when the ball is in that really important place, we’re putting the touch in.”
But the Commodores controlled the early going, and outshot the Eagles, 10-6, in the first half, forcing freshman goalie Ethan DeWitt to stop four shots (he finished with those four saves).
But the Eagles had the first chance: In the ninth minute VUHS junior goalie Ethan Sausville (six saves) got a hand on Correll’s point-blank bid set up by Burgess.
The Commodores kept pressing, and two minutes later sophomore forward Ezekiel Palmer hit the left post from long range. At 17:22, the VUHS territory paid off: An Eagle defender knocked Palmer off his feet as he carried the ball inside the box. Kayhart struck the penalty kick well enough that DeWitt could not stop it even though he got a hand on it.
Then the Eagles struck twice in three minutes. In the 28th minute, LaBarr came up from central defense on a corner kick and headed in senior middie Sam Paradee’s well-struck ball from the left side. In the 31st minute, LaBarr sent a long ball up the middle, and Burgess outmaneuvered two defenders for it, broke into the left side of the box and tapped the ball home past the charging Sausville.
Palmer nearly equalized three minutes later after winning the ball in a scramble, but Dewitt stopped a five-yard bid ticketed for the right side of the goal.
The Eagles settled and moved the ball better after the break and earned a 9-6 second-half edge in shots, forcing Sausville to make four saves after the break.
After an uneventful 17 minutes, the teams combined for three goals in 2:34 to produce the 3-3 tie. First, Bergmans crossed from the right side to Ratti-Bicknell off the left post, where he beat a defender and poked a low, eight-yard shot past DeWitt at 22:36.
Then Sausville had no chance on Maille’s drive from the top right corner of the box into the goal’s top left corner that made it 3-2 at 20:26.
At 20:02, it was 3-3. Bergmans carried down the right side and drove the ball into the Eagle box, between the penalty stripe and the goal. Ratti-Bicknell, streaking down the middle, headed the ball solidly into the left side of the net for the game’s prettiest goal.
The Eagles continued to create chances, but Wright tipped a loose ball high, VUHS freshman sweeper Jeffrey Stearns broke up a Burgess bid, and senior Jack Willis shot high. In the final minute, VUHS freshman Josias Salomao made a strong run into the box, but LaBarr shut it down.
In overtime, Ratti-Bicknell threatened early, but Paradee defended well. Then the end came quickly. The Commodores failed to clear decisively, and the Eagles worked the ball to Correll in the right corner. He looped a cross over Sausville to the far post, and Wright got position on a defender and tapped the game-winner home with 7:36 left in the first 10-minute overtime.
Despite a 4-7-1 record with a tough game at Rice to go, Corey called the Eagles’ season a success because of the team’s improvement and positive attitude.
“What I tried to so in preseason is set the table. We were going to be a work in progress, and I said this really clearly, you guys are going to take your lumps. But our goal is to by the end of the season to be a really good soccer team,” he said. “And I think they’ve bought into all of that. I’ve not had a group that has been more focused in training.”
The Commodores finish with MUHS on Friday afternoon and can pin down a home playoff game with a victory against the 5-5-3 Tigers, whom they tied on the road.
“If we beat Middlebury we’ve got a shot at a home game, which has eluded us for a few years now,” Hayes said. “We’ve got a shot. We saw some really positive stuff today.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected] EAGLE FRESHMAN SILAS Burgess, left, is chased down by celebrating teammates Sam Paradee and Weston Allred after he scored the first goal for Mount Abraham during the team’s 4-3 overtime win against Vergennes Tuesday afternoon.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell