Tiger boys’ lacrosse advances in tourney

MIDDLEBURY — The No. 7 Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team had little trouble on Tuesday with visiting No. 10 Essex in a first-round Division I playoff game, looking crisp in taking a quick lead on the way to a 12-2 victory at Middlebury College’s Alumni Stadium.
The Tigers improved to 9-7 at the expense of the rebuilding Hornets, who dropped to 3-11.
But the road is about to get more challenging. Next up for MUHS is a quarterfinal at No. 2 Champlain Valley (13-2). The Redhawks have been a problem for the Tigers for several years and own two wins over the Tigers this spring. But one was close, 8-7 on Fucile Field, although the Redhawks prevailed in Hinesburg, 10-3.
Once the Tigers took a 7-0 lead at the half on Tuesday, the coaches were already looking ahead to Friday. Coach Brian Carpenter changed the defensive look after the break, for example, to prepare for the Redhawks.
“We went into a zone,” Carpenter said. “We haven’t played a lot of zone this year, and based on our assessment of CVU we’re going to zone it up and force them to take outside shots.”
The kind of error-free, patient offensive play the Tigers showed in Tuesday’s first quarter would also be helpful, Carpenter said.
Senior Andrew Gleason helped MUHS off to a quick start, driving to score 36 seconds after senior Spencer Carpenter controlled the opening faceoff. Three minutes later, Gleason threw a strong 20-yard diagonal pass to sophomore Jake Peluso curling at left side of the Essex net, and Peluso made it 2-0.
At 6:23, the Tigers made it 3-0 in transition after junior defender Brian Kiernan caused a turnover, one of many forced by the low defense of Kiernan, senior Brett Viens, junior Fyn Fernandez and senior long-stick middie Doug DeLorenzo.
“The defense was putting the ball on the ground. It was a pretty complete game,” Carpenter said.
The ball went to sophomore attacker Kolby Farnsworth on the right side, and he found DeLorenzo out 
front for a sweeping backhanded conversion.
Later in the period, senior middie Trey Kaufmann bounced one home to make it 4-0. The Tigers took a penalty shortly afterward, but senior middie Eli Miller, who played well defensively, picked off a pass to kill it off.
Carpenter said the Tigers will need 48 minutes of ball control and patience resembling that first-period vs. CVU.
“We were (shooting) on goal a lot more. Guys have been trying to crank from the outside this season, and we’ve been talking to them more about placement. That was positive,” he said. “Most of them (the goals) were off from moving the ball around and creating some movement.”
The scoring pace slowed in the second period, and the Hornets finally got a dangerous shot on Tiger freshman goalie Cam Devlin (nine saves, two in the first half), but Devlin stopped Aidan Whitney. Early in the quarter, Peluso dodged in from the left side to make it
5-0, and in the final minute junior attacker Jackson Donahue first set up Gleason out front, and then came in from the right side and found the near corner at 0:18 to make it 7-0.
After the break, Devlin stopped Whitney again, but at 8:13 Hornet Luke Meunier finally got a 12-yard shot past Devlin after a feed from Connor LeBlanc. With Carpenter subbing freely, the Tigers were not as sharp, but still pushed the lead to 9-1 with two Kaufmann goals at 2:59 and 2:30, the first set up Gleason from behind the net and the second in transition. Hornet Grady Corkum tossed in a bullet before the quarter ended to make it 9-2.
In the final period, the Tigers added goals from Donahue, a copy of his earlier strike; from Kaufmann, on another assist from Gleason; and in the final minute from sophomore middie Henry Hodde, on a nice feed from Farnsworth. Two Essex goalies combined for four saves against the high-percentage Tiger shots.
Devlin came up with a couple strong fourth-quarter saves, including a point-blank stop at the left post on Whitney.
“Cam had a really good game, as always,” Carpenter said.
On Saturday, the Tigers concluded their regular season by thumping visiting D-II Spaulding, 16-2. Nine Tigers contributed points, topped by Peluso (three goals, four assists), Kaufmann (three goals, two assists), Farnsworth (three goals) and A.J. Campbell (two goals).
As for this Friday, Carpenter said he believes the Tigers can make a run at the Redhawks.
“We have to keep the intensity up and not make a lot of unforced errors,” he said. “This is do or die, and CVU for us has been our nemesis. We’re really hungry for them.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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