Commodore girls’ soccer earn edge over MUHS

MIDDLEBURY — The Vergennes Union High School girls’ soccer team gave itself a needed shot in the arm on Saturday, defeating host Middlebury, 2-1, to snap a five-game skid and finish the regular season on a high note.
The 5-8-1 Commodores were competitive vs. tough teams — Division I MUHS once, and D-I Rice and improving D-II Mount Abraham twice each — in that slide.
But a victory as the Commodores head into the D-II playoffs should give them a lift, said Co-Coach Dwight Irish.
“We’ve been knocking on the door against some strong teams,” Irish said. “We’ve got to know coming into the D-II playoffs we can play with anybody.”
VUHS will apparently earn the No. 11 seed in D-II and open at No. 6 Montpelier (8-3-3). The Vermont Principals’ Association was set to release official pairings on Monday morning.
Irish said the kind of focus the Commodores showed on Saturday could help them in the postseason.
“We talked about being 100 percent all in. And that helps our confidence, and we start playing the way we know how to play,” he said. “The effort was excellent.”
MUHS Coach Wendy Leeds agreed the Commodores had the better of most of the action.
“They came out to win today … 50-50s were theirs, for sure … They were just looking a lot hungrier on their chances than we were on ours,” Leeds said. “Not that we played badly. They just played better.”
MUHS dropped to 5-7-2, historically not a poor record for the program, but disappointing compared to recent seasons. It appears the Tigers will be seeded No. 12 in D-I and face No. 5 South Burlington (9-3-2).
The Rebels lost at Milton this season, and the Tigers on Oct. 14 tied Milton, 0-0, a game in which Leeds said they played their best soccer.
“Everyone was on, everyone was talking and we were connecting. I think we let up a little bit after that. And we can’t do that,” she said. “We’ve got to find that place again if we want to compete in the playoffs, and I think we can.”
The action in Saturday’s game picked up midway through the first half, and the Commodores began to carry it. In the 19th minute, Rayven Perkins shot high on a corner kick, and a minute later Ciara McClay missed wide left.
The Tigers countered with a dangerous Andi Boe free kick that Sierra Barnicle couldn’t quite convert, and in the 15th minute VUHS goalie Anya Sonwaldt (four saves) moved quickly to her left to snare a Boe bid.
In the 31st minute, McClay blasted a 24-yard free kick at the upper left corner, and Tiger goalie Riley Fenster (seven saves) made a brilliant stop, leaping to deflect it wide. But Fenster could not punch away McClay’s ensuing corner kick, and it deflected in to make it 1-0.
Fenster kept it a one-goal game by stopping McClay from 10 yards out late in the half.
The teams traded chances early in the second, with Annika Vorsteveld shooting wide on a feed from Kaitlyn Brace, and Sonwaldt denying Amelia Ingersoll’s deflected shot on an Aileen Bosworth cross.
In the half’s ninth minute, VUHS made it 2-0. The Tiger defense and Fenster could not handle a Shay Pouliot serve from the right sideline, and Brace got to the loose ball first and tapped it home.
The Tigers showed mettle and pressed, but three of them, Alexa Lapiner, Bosworth and Abby Gleason, couldn’t quite get a foot on a Boe corner kick in the 16th minute.
Boe took care of business on her own at 23:35, drilling home a long free kick to make it 2-1.
But the Commodores reasserted themselves down the stretch, and Sonwaldt routinely wrapped up the only shot MUHS put on goal, from Lapiner with a minute to go.
Irish said it took the Commodores’ best to defeat the Tigers.
“I think we came together a little bit along with the effort,” he said. “Beating Middlebury is tough. They’re a good side.”

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