Tiger boys’ soccer wins final game vs. VUHS

VERGENNES — Both boys’ soccer coaches came away pleased after Friday’s game between host Vergennes Union High School and Middlebury, but one was happier: The Tigers withstood a second-half Commodore surge to win, 3-1.
Coach Reeves Livesay’s Tigers finished the regular season at 6-5-3 after a 1-3 start, a turnaround that started with the program’s first victory over Champlain Valley in 20 years.
That record betters 2015’s 6-7-1 despite a tougher schedule and further improves on 2014’s 2-11-1.  
“We had a large group of seniors who were really committed to the team,” Livesay said. “And I think everyone really enjoys coming out to practice and playing together.”
According to the Vermont Principals’ Association website’s rankings, the Tigers will be the No. 10 seed in Division I and visit No. 7 St. Johnsbury (8-4-2) this week. The VPA was set to make pairings official on Monday morning.
Livesay said the Tigers’ defense (Lucas Pyle and Harlow Punderson in the middle and Eli Miller and Tucker Moulton outside) and goalie Santiago Fernandez have been a constant, and that combined with improved finishing gives them a shot in the postseason.
“Especially with our defense that allows us to stay tight in all our games, if our offense can come up with a couple goals we’re a real dangerous team for anyone,” he said.
Despite a setback that means the 5-8-1 Commodores will probably earn the No. 9 seed and open at No. 8 U-32 (6-6-2) rather than the reverse, VUHS Coach Kevin Hayes was not discouraged on Friday.
“They showed me a lot of heart,” Hayes said. “It was one or their best performances of the year.”  
The Commodores outshot MUHS, 11-9, in the second half, and had the Tigers on their heels until MUHS senior striker George McKeever-Parkes blasted a loose ball home with three minutes left to make it 3-1.  
“I told the guys I was so encouraged by their performance in the second half,” Hayes said. “They moved the ball and they had opportunities.”
The Tigers pressed early, but VUHS took the lead. In the sixth minute, striker Ezekiel Palmer slid the ball to senior midfielder Tinder Kiely along the top of the box, and Kiely one-timed it into the lower left corner.
   VUHS MIDFIELDER TINDER Kiely launches the Commodore boys’ goal against MUHS on Friday. His shot found the lower left corner, out of the reach of Tiger goalie Santiago Fernandez. Photo by Kristine Kirkaldy
VUHS goalie Ethan Sausville (six saves) beat Tigers J.D. Goettelmann and Jake Peluso to balls served into the box to help maintain the lead, but could do nothing when Goettelmann equalized in the 23rd minute. Goettelmann took a pass from McKeever-Parkes on the 18, turned and had time to find the left side of the net.
Sausville later denied Camden Simpson from the 18 after a feed from Henry Hodde. At the other end, the Commodores began to press late in the half, when Moulton blocked a shot and Fernandez (five saves) denied VUHS senior Max Ratti-Bicknell.
Sausville stopped Brett Viens to open the second period, but had no chance on the second Tiger goal. Tiger middie Eben Jackson waltzed past the defense toward the left post and slid the ball across the goal to the dangerous Simpson, who was left open at 33:57 for an easy tap-in.
Hayes said his team still has “momentary lapses” at times.
“If we clean that up we’ve got some good run ahead of us,” he said.
Shortly Simpson’s goal, Sausville stopped Simpson, and then the field tilted the other way.
Commodores Samir Kadric’s looping ball from long range bounced off the top of the crossbar, Pyle did well to break up a Palmer run, Josias Salomao missed wide from just outside the box, Lance Bergmans couldn’t quite finish a beautiful set-up from Palmer and Salomao, and Fernandez denied Ratti-Bicknell in the half’s 27th minute.
In the 28th minute the Tigers blocked two shots on a VUHS corner kick, one by VUHS back Jack Halpin that appeared ticketed for the left corner. Soon afterward, Ratti-Bicknell just missed a Ben Kayhart cross, and Pyle and Punderson teamed up to stop Ratti-Bicknell.
Livesay noted the Commodores had rallied to tie the Tigers at MUHS.
“Every time we play them I feel like they really have a great finish to the game,” he said. “My guys certainly bunkered down and I think we got a little bit lucky here and there and then were able to come down and score toward the end.”
Sausville could to nothing with that last score, McKeever-Parkes’ clinching bomb from 22-yards out to the upper left corner.
Still, Hayes remained optimistic.
“If they play this way in the playoffs,” he said, ‘they’re going to give teams problems.”   
And Livesay felt the same way, especially if the Tigers keep finishing.
“The last two games we finally began to capitalize on our opportunities,” he said. “It’s great to see that as we head into the postseason.”

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