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MUHS boys’ soccer hold off Eagles for 1-0 victory

BRISTOL — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer team’s edge in first-half possession translated into a 1-0 win over host Mount Abraham on Friday. But despite the Tigers’ territorial advantage the Eagles always seemed to be a counterpunch away as the game wore on.
As the teams enter the final week of the regular season the win kept the 7-1-3 Tigers in fifth place in Division I, just ahead of Rutland (8-3-1) and nipping on the heels of No. 4 Champlain Valley (9-3), although they will probably need help to catch the Redhawks.
With the playoffs looming, Coach Reeves Livesay was pleased to see his Tigers play well vs. a tough opponent on the road; they outshot Mount Abe, 23-7, although the Eagles earned a 3-2 edge in corner kicks with their work in the second half.
“I think it’s a great win,” Livesay said. “They’re definitely one of the strongest teams on our schedule, and I think they’re playing well, so it’s a good result for us as we head into the end of the season.”
The Eagles dropped to 7-5, and probably out of the running for a D-II top-four seed. Coach Mike Corey praised the Tigers’ ball control, and his team’s ability to fight back as the game progressed.
“I didn’t have a clock on it, but they had a lot of possession early,” Corey said. “But it became a little more balanced, and I really like what we did in the second half. I thought we had a lot more possession. We were playing the game we try to play, and we weren’t giving them as many opportunities.”
And the Eagles did create several dangerous chances of their own, although Corey noted not finishing them has become an unsettling trend: They have scored just five times in their past six games. 
“I’d like to say we’ve been just unfortunate,” he said. “But in previous games we had way more and we still didn’t finish them.”
The Tigers probably wished they put a couple more on the board early, when their midfielders — J.D. Goettelmann, Tyler Giorgio, Eben Jackson, Ben Turner and Owen Palcsik — moved the ball well and rarely let it out of the Eagle end, and striker Camden Simpson threatened constantly.
But the Eagle defense of Jackson Counter and Will Schoenhuber in the middle and Sam Schoenhuber and Eli Rickner on the flanks worked hard and kept many of the Tigers’ 16 first-half shots from landing on target. Goalie Ethan DeWitt made six of his 10 saves in the half, including punching away a Palcsik free kick.
The Eagles had two chances before the Tigers broke through, but no one could reach middie Weston Allred’s big serve from the right side, and striker William Wright couldn’t quite get to middie Nick Catlin’s feed from the left.
The Tigers pressed again, and Simpson fired just high on a long serve from center back Tucker Moulton in the 31st minute. Simpson made no mistake five minutes later. Stationed to the left of the penalty stripe, he settled a Jackson free kick from the left sideline and calmly picked the lower right corner to make it 1-0.
The Eagles had a chance as time expired. Counter tossed a throw-in from the right sideline to the goalmouth, and striker Silas Burgess solidly struck a header that sailed just outside of the near post.
The Tigers’ edge in shots dropped in the second half as the Eagle midfield began to contest territory well. Owen Maille, Sam Paradee, Eric McKean and Catlin were among those effective with and without the ball.
Livesay said the Tigers had to grind out the win.
“We had a lot of energy all the way through. Mount Abe played tough the whole way, and they definitely sort of began to get the play in the second half and had us defending a lot more,” he said. “They were more active on the ball and got more pressure on our midfielders.”
Paradee created several chances on the left side, the best of which came in the half’s 14th minute. He beat a defender and carried into the box along the end line and found Catlin cutting toward the center of the goal. But Tiger goalie Santiago Fernandez came off his line to deflect Catlin’s point-blank one-timer wide off his chest.
In the 20th minute Tiger defender Devon Kearns cleared the ball out of a scramble after an Eagle corner kick, in the 36th minute center back Ben Crawford broke up a Rickner run into the box, shortly afterward Fernandez came out to beat Catlin to a ball, and finally in the 38th minute Fernandez snared the last Eagle chance, a Rickner header after another long Counter throw.
Corey believes the Eagles can be a dangerous playoff team if they can figure out a way to put away a few of their chances.
“These guys, these guys, each game out, I think they’re getting it” he said. “If we can solve the finishing issues, then I think we will be a team that will be a very hard out.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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