Tiger striker and goalie share top honors on boys’ soccer all-star team
ADDISON COUNTY — It wasn’t a banner year for boys’ soccer at the area high schools. But each team enjoyed good moments and benefited from strong individual efforts that are recognized here by selection to the 2016 Addison Independent All-Star Team.
That team is headlined by two Middlebury Union High School juniors, goalie Santiago Fernandez and striker Camden Simpson, the 2016 Addison Independent Co-Players of the Year.
Fernandez and a solid defense took care of one end of the field while Simpson provided the lion’s share of the offense for Coach Reeves Livesay’s Tigers. They enjoyed a solid 6-5-3 regular season before a first-round Division I playoff loss that was technically a tie — it was decided by penalty shots. Two senior defenders join them on the Independent squad.
Coach Kevin Hayes led Vergennes to a 5-9-1 record, the program’s best in a few years and one that included a tie at MUHS and a split of two games with Mount Abraham. Two dangerous scorers, a senior and a sophomore, earned recognition here.
Coach Dick Williams’ Otter Valley side also went 5-9-1, also the program’s best in recent years, accomplishing that mark by going 4-4 over their final eight regular season games. Two OV juniors made the Independent team, one a playmaker and the other a sniper.
Coach Mike Corey’s young Mount Abraham unit learned on the job and was notable for its positive attitude as it finished 4-9-1, a record that included a tie at MUHS and a win at VUHS. Three Eagles merited inclusion here, a senior defensive mainstay, a senior scorer, and a versatile junior.
Selections were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
SANTIAGO FERNANDEZ, MUHS JUNIOR, CO-PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Junior captain who used his size, positioning and quick reactions to allow just 18 goals in 15 games, including two overtime scores and four vs. D-I champion Burlington … Showed excellent decision-making in when to leave his line to pick off balls sent into the box, and used his height well to snare crosses … Used his communication skills to help organize the Tiger defense … A number of his saves had high degrees of difficulty.
Livesay’s Quotes: “He didn’t give up a single soft goal, which I think is amazing for a high school goalie … I can count the mistakes he made easily on one hand … He has really quick reflexes. He did really well with a couple scramble plays in front of the net … He had a couple real spectacular saves … He came up with at least one save a game that was really taking that goal off the board … He really helped with the communication in the back. He helped that unit gel.”
CAMDEN SIMPSON, MUHS JUNIOR, CO-PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Explosive scorer who figured in 74 percent of the Tigers’ offense this year, notching 12 of their 19 goals and assisting two others … Possesses terrific top-end speed, great balance and a quick first step … Became more of a threat this year with improved skills and touch on the ball … Has the knacks of finding open space on the attack, and of finding the corner of the goal with his shot … Also dangerous defensively in the middle of the field.
Livesay’s Quotes: “He’s such a strong player, and he plays incredibly hard … He goes for the ball and he goes hard … He’s a finisher. He understands how to finish … He understands how to place the ball in the corner … He has the sort of nose for the goal that is difficult to teach …That finishing ability combined with the speed makes him a very dangerous player … He very good at creating turnovers … He wants to be a leader.”
OWEIN LABARR, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Big, fast, strong and skilled defender who also provided an offensive spark for the Eagles … Scored two goals on headers on corner kicks, and assisted four goals, primarily on accurate free kicks into the box… Three-year starter at center back who excelled at one-v-one defense, communicated well and organized the back line, and played sound positional defense.
Corey’s Quotes: “He is very strong and wins almost every contested ball on the ground or in the air … His pace allows him to run down attacking players and win the ball … He is exceptionally technical and can play his way out of pressure when necessary … His decision making on defense, whether defending the ball or off the ball is nearly flawless … As a defender, I thought he had all the tools … Owein’s a great leader, talking to his teammates all the time, picking them up.”
MAX RATTI-BICKNELL, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Skilled and tireless two-way midfielder and team leader who tied for the team lead with nine goals, including some belonging on a highlight reel, and added three assists … Rarely came off the field, and showed toughness as he played the final two-and-a-half games with a broken hand … Defended well in addition to finishing plays.
Hayes’ Quotes: “He has great skill and first touch … He attacked the box … He got back on defense, too, which you always like to see in a midfielder … He had to be creating as well as supporting the attack, and he did a very nice job of that … He showed real bravery in his game … He rallied the team. He was our heart and soul. He really got them motivated. His leadership skills were great.”
JOSH LETOURNEAU, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Relentless attacker who led all local players with 14 goals, all but four of OV’s season total … Quick, tireless athlete with a nose for the goal despite rarely playing soccer out of season … Wins 50-50 challenges and defends faithfully when OV loses the ball.
Williams’ Quotes: “He is a great athlete … For our league other than Woodstock there was no more threatening player than Josh … He is a willing learner … This year he made many changes which improved his game … He has a positive attitude and is very gritty … When he is in a game he does not let up … He is a warrior on the pitch and I love having him on my team because of his great attitude.”
EZEKIEL PALMER, VUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: Dangerous, skilled striker who became the Commodores’ leading point-getter with nine goals and five assists … Also spent some time at midfield and moved the ball and defended well in that role … Had the ability and skills to finish plays and take on opponents one-on-one, and the field vision to set up chances for his teammates.
Hayes’ Quotes: “He’s ruthless in the box … He liked to attack defenders, even one against two … He was fearless … He knew he was skilled. He knew he could handle the technical side of dribbling the ball, and he made defenders look frightened … They were always worried about where he was … He did a nice job of distributing the ball … He was the most all-around skilled player on the team.”
MAXWELL WILLIAMS, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Skilled, smart central midfielder who made good use of his years of club experience to lead all local players with seven assists … Also chipped in two goals … Played a key role for OV in moving the ball up the field as well as creating chances for his teammates … Worked hard to disrupt other teams at midfield.
Williams’ Quotes: “He is the conduit on our team … When we build out from the back we go through Maxwell. When we combine in the midfield it is through Maxwell … He is the player that settles the team down so that we are playing with intent … He has great technical skills and his work rate is second to none on the team in practice or in games … He works as hard defending and trying to win the ball back as he does in trying to fuel our attack.”
LUCAS PYLE, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Poised, vocal leader of the stingy Tiger defense at sweeper … Heady, smart player who excelled in his first year at central defense after switching from midfield … Excelled at using his knowledge of the game to be in the right place at the right time to break up opponents’ threats … Used his skills to help build the Tiger attack out of the back.
Livesay’s Quotes: “He was the individual who organized our backs, the person who helped our team sort out who we were marking … He was the one who communicated when people had to step … He’s a very knowledgeable player with a great understanding of the game … The big thing for him is his anticipation. He reads the game well … He has very good feet. He’s very good distributing the ball.”
ELI RICKNER, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Versatile soccer player who used his skills, quickness and stamina to succeed in several roles for the Eagles … Played well on defense, showing tenacity; at midfield, winning balls and distributing well; and on the attack, scoring three goals and setting up one … Physical player with great balance and determination.
Corey’s Quotes: “When he gets his motor running, whether he’s defending or pushing forward with the ball, he’s impressive … He’s just high energy, big motor, explosive acceleration … Loose balls that look like other players have several steps on him, he gets there … He can get forward 30, 40 yards in a blink … He’s shifty. He’s very hard to contain … He’s the consummate team guy … He promoted that concept, that they were a group of brothers.”
JACK WILLIS, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Multi-skilled and tenacious player who led the Eagles with seven goals and three assists while splitting time between striker and left middie … Dangerous in the box because of his quick feet and strong shot, and a threat on the flank due to his speed and strong crosses … Also diligent in handling his defensive midfield responsibilities.
Corey’s Quotes: “He really volunteered to move back out to the left flank … He was effective both places … He had tremendous left-foot crosses … He was tremendously accurate … We knew he could put the ball within a few feet of where we wanted it … He became more successful at getting by guys at getting down to the end line, at beating people and knocking balls back into the box.”
HARLOW PUNDERSON, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Quick and strong player at stopper who not only stepped up to disrupt many plays but also typically marked many opponents’ top scorers … Key player for the Tiger defense in heading the ball out of trouble … Solid decision maker and distributor with the ball.
Livesay’s Quotes: “Harlow was probably our team’s strongest tackler, and he was also our strongest player in the air … He played in the middle, where he was always getting matched up with the other team’s strongest striker … He was a great communicator in that back line … He did a nice job of helping us move the ball laterally and switch the point of attack.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].