MUHS boys’ soccer scores late, trips up host Mt. Abe

BRISTOL — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer team put pressure on host Mount Abraham for most of Saturday’s game, but it took the Tigers almost 70 minutes to crack the Eagle back line in a 2-0 victory.
Junior center midfielder Eben Jackson, who helped the Tigers gain a territorial advantage through crisp passing and aggressive work to bottle up the Eagles in their own end, scored the late MUHS goals.
Jackson credited his goals to the MUHS game plan of pressuring the Eagle defensive clearing attempts and, when the Tigers possessed, attacking from the flanks.
“It let us keep the ball in their half, and they didn’t get than many chances on our goal. It really kept us playing offense the whole time,” Jackson said. “We were getting it wide and it really spread out their back line, and it opened up gaps in the middle.”
MUHS Coach Reeves Livesay said the Tigers, who improved to 3-2-1 against a tough early schedule, like to play a pressing style, but said he made it a point of emphasis for Saturday’s game.
“We try to press teams. It was certainly something we talked about for this game. We thought there was going to be an opportunity to really put their backs under pressure and win the ball high up on the field,” Livesay said.
First-year Eagle Coach Bobby Russell said his team had good moments, especially early in the second half, but acknowledged the Tiger approach paid off.
“I feel like coming out in the second half we adjusted well and had the front foot there. And then toward the last quarter of the game there they took a foothold, and we had a little trouble replicating our movements forward,” Russell said. “And they took their chances well.”
The Tigers outshot the Eagles, 22-3, and held a 6-3 edge in corner kicks, although the corners were 3-3 after the break as the Eagles held their own until the late Tiger surge.
In the first half the Tigers established their template for success. The defense of Ben Crawford and Spencer Doran in the middle and Joseph Findlay and Devon Kearns outside did not allow a shot on goalie Lucas Palcsik and moved the ball quickly to the midfield. There Jackson and fellow central middie Owen Palcsik keyed the Tiger ball movement.
But the Tigers didn’t break through. Eagle center back Kai Dobek was sensational all game, particularly in keeping Tiger striker Tucker Moulton in check, and center back Owen Maille and Sam Schoenhuber and Griffin Paradee on the flanks also played well.
Eagle goalie Ethan DeWitt made nine saves and came out quickly to break up services. He an early Jackson shot and beat middie David Peters to a Jackson feed. DeWitt got help in the 35th minute, when a 40-yard Jackson shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced out.
The Eagles’ best chance of the half came on a late Angus Schwaneflugel cross that sailed just out of striker Weston Allred’s reach.
Early in the second DeWitt blocked Moulton’s shot from the left side. Then the Eagles finally got a couple shots off, an Allred header on a corner kick that went wide and a Paradee bid on a Takumi Melchior serve that Lucas Palcsik collared for his only save.
Then the Tigers began to turn up the pressure again, and Dobek made a ridiculous kick save on a Moulton blast with the goal open, after which Crawford broke up an Eagle counter.
Finally Jackson’s game-winner solved the Eagle back line. Jackson picked up a loose ball near the top right corner of the box, beat two defenders toward the middle and pounded a shot back inside the right post at 10:31.
The Eagles countered again, but Crawford again broke up a rush, and then he and Kearns headed the ball away on the following corner kick. Then Crawford headed the ball out of trouble on a restart, and soon afterward Jackson iced the game. The Tigers served from the left to Hunter Munteanu at the right post. Munteanu and a defender battled, and the ball popped to Jackson, who poked a short shot into the left corner at 3:09.
Russell said the Eagles would work on their transition game, and said despite the outcome he didn’t think there was “a big disparity” between the teams.
“There were stretches where it looked like we had the front foot,” he said. “Ultimately they just had more than we did, and they did well. They deserved the victory.”
 Livesay said the Tigers are beginning to gel and also praised the Eagles’ effort.
Mount Abe always plays hard. They always give us a good game. They worked right up to the end, and they certainly made it tough for us,” he said.
Jackson said a Tuesday tie at Rutland, which had beaten South Burlington, and Saturday’s performance should give a left to the Tigers, who earned the No. 5 seed in Division I in 2017.
“We’re starting to play well,” he said. “I think we’re feeling good, almost like we can win out the rest of the season.”

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