Eagle boys’ soccer uses PKs to get past Solons

BRISTOL — Strong wind and high drama marked Tuesday afternoon’s first-round Division II boys’ soccer game at Mount Abraham.
The host No. 5 Eagles received two saves from sophomore goalie Ethan DeWitt and successful conversions from Weston Allred, Eric McKean and, finally, senior Nick Catlin to defeat No. 12 Montpelier, 3-0, on penalty kicks.
Eighty minutes of regulation and 40 minutes of overtime had failed to settle matters: The 10-5 Eagles had more possession and looked like the better team overall, but could not translate their ball control into anything except a 1-1 tie vs. the 5-10 Solons before the PKs settled matters.
Catlin’s first-half goal tied the game, and he had the honor of clinching the win by pounding a shot through the rain and wind and off shootout goalie Max Kissner’s hands into the left side of the net.
But Catlin was more excited to talk about DeWitt, who dove to his left twice to deny Solon shooters. His stop of Nathan Grutchfield’s third shot, a low bullet, had an exceptionally high degree of difficulty. The second Solon shooter missed wide left.
Catlin talked about DeWitt’s “absolutely phenomenal” effort.
“For a sophomore he’s incredible. It was beyond anything else I’ve seen,” Catlin said.
   EAGLE JUNIOR WILLIAM Wright fires a shot on goal while under heavy pressure from Montpelier defenders Tuesday afternoon.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Eagle Coach Mike Corey also praised his goalie, and said DeWitt (seven saves during the run of play) had prepared for the occasion.
“Ethan came up huge. He’s a great goalkeeper. He’s got great instincts. He reacts well,” Corey said. “We’ve been working on little strategies on where a shooter is going, and he executed well today.”
Corey also said Montpelier was a tough opponent — the Solons recently defeated No. 4 seed U-32 (the Eagles’ probable opponent on Saturday at a time to be announced) and competed well in their losses.
“Everybody I’ve spoken to said they way underachieved this year,” Corey said. “I think it’s a confidence booster for these guys (the Eagles). These guys (the Solons) play everybody even over there.”
The Eagles controlled most of the first half even against the wind, particularly through the midfield, with Catlin, Owen Maille, McKean and Sam Paradee doing good work with and without the ball.
Backs Will Schoenhuber and Jackson Counter in the middle and Sam Schoenhuber and especially Eli Rickner on the flanks rarely allowed threats except on Solon restarts.
But the Solons took advantage of one of those set plays. An Eagle miscue led to a corner kick, and at 9:57 Davor Vukoja headed home a loose ball from close range.
The Eagles answered four minutes later when Catlin and striker William Wright, who had threatened consistently, teamed up. Wright, just outside the 18, flicked a ball to Catlin breaking into the left side of the Solon box. Catlin beat Solon goalie Nelson Brown to the ball by inches and touched it past him. The ball rolled into the open goal with Catlin shepherding it home.
The Eagles played against the wind in the first half, but did not adjust well to having the wind at their backs in the second. Although they possessed more than the Solons, many serves and through balls sailed out of bounds or bounced harmlessly to Brown (six saves). The Eagles also had a goal waived off for an offsides violation.
And the Solons had two golden chances, both from Vukoja. In the sixth minute DeWitt dove to his right to deflect a Vukoja shot wide, and with seven minutes to go his long shot grazed the crossbar.
The Eagles had all the chances in the overtimes. In the first OT, Brown stopped a Catlin direct kick and beat the Eagles to the rebound, and he made a kick save on a McKean free kick. In the second OT Catlin shot after another McKean free kick — the Solons were under pressure and fouling — but his bid sailed wide.
Ultimately, the Eagles dominated the PKs and celebrated with their friends in the bleachers after Catlin was on target with the clincher.
“I just told myself to not miss,” he said. “PKs are a little scary for me, but I’m glad it worked out in the end.”
Catlin said he thought the Eagles had the edge in play, but credited the Solons, too.  
“I think we deserved to win. We just couldn’t find the goal. It was a super windy day, really tough conditions out there,” he said. “I think we were the better team in the end, but Montpelier really played a great game.”
If the Eagles get past their expected foe in U-32, No. 1 Lake Region would probably be next. Catlin acknowledged the road is not easy.
“We’ve got a really hard path through the playoffs,” he said. “But I’ve got some faith. We want to win. We’re going to go for it.”
Corey said he shares that belief.  
“As I’ve told these guys right along, I’m not seeing anybody that’s that much better than us,” Corey said. “If we play our game, anything can happen.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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