Commodore girls’ soccer edges Mt. Abe

BRISTOL — Three minutes into Friday’s high school girls’ soccer game at Mount Abraham, Vergennes Union High School senior midfielder Ciara McClay stood over a free kick about 25 yards from the Eagle goal.
Commodore Co-Coach Pete Maneen shouted some advice to the player he and her teammates often call “C.”
“Follow through, C,” Maneen yelled. “Follow through.”
McClay did not. Her backspinning shot, one of only four at goal the Commodores managed against a stubborn Mount Abe defense, floated harmlessly over the net.
McClay did not make the same mistake twice.
In the fifth minute of the second half her junior midfield teammate Emily Rooney led McClay into the right side of the Eagle penalty box. McClay took a touch and unleashed a 20-yard bomb high into the net — Eagle junior goalie Justice Green had no chance in what was the game’s only Commodore shot on goal.
And it proved to be the only goal in the 5-3-1 Commodores’ 1-0 win, one that avenged a 2-1 home loss to the Eagles in the season opener and moved Vergennes into fifth place in the Division III standings.
McClay said she remembered what Maneen had to say as she lined up her game-winner.
“It was definitely in the back of my mind. I was definitely thinking about it,” McClay said.
More importantly after the game McClay and her teammates were enjoying a rare win over a perennial strong rival with whom they are also close — many play together on the Addison United club team or have gotten to know each other as the ties between the two schools have grown.
“It feels so good,” McClay said. “Friends off the field, but on the field we take it at each other.”
The Eagles’ mood was more somber, in part because senior midfielder Kat Kandzior went down with what could be a serious injury for a second straight season. The Commodores huddled around her after the game to wish her well, too.
The Eagles’ record dropped to 3-5-1 with their fourth one-goal loss. In their other loss, by 2-0, they earned a wide edge in territory and shots. On Friday they outshot the Commodores by 15-4 and forced VUHS goalie Kate Gosliga to make five saves as they were shut out despite showing strong ball movement and skill.
Eagle Coach Dustin Corrigan credited the Commodore defense.
“They always had good numbers behind the ball. It was really hard to get in behind their back line,” Corrigan said.
But yes, he said, his team is having trouble scoring.
“We had some good services into the box, some corners that were dangerous. We just couldn’t quite get them into the net,” he said.
Corrigan said he and the Eagles will continue to work on the issue.
“We’ve just got to stick together. We’re playing well enough where we could lose to Vergennes one day, and I could see us beating a Milton or Rice the next day,” Corrigan said. “It’s just that finding some consistency in putting the ball in the net when we should put the ball in the net is making it hard for us at the moment. I’ve got to find more ways to target that in training.”
In the first half the Eagles had chances: Middie Addy Harris shot just wide on a corner kick served well by middie Mae Peterson; VUHS defender Emma Bryant cleared away a cross from Eagle middie Chloe Johnston; Bryant blocked middie Lucy Guy’s shot; defender Sophie Hatch blocked Sydney Minnerly’s bid; and Minnerly rolled a shot just wide on a Harris feed.
In the late going VUHS middie Sydney Weber hit a dangerous cross and struck a free kick wide, but an Eagle defense anchored by Savannah Scrodin and Grace Harvey in the middle did not allow a first-half shot other than McCray’s free kick.
In the second half the Eagles put more shots on Gosliga, but her biggest challenges came on punching out a corner kick and coming off her line to beat Eagles to balls, notably on Becca Laurent just before McClay’s strike.
Midway through the half the Commodores began to step to the ball more strongly and disrupt the Eagles’ ball movement. Harvey denied VUHS striker Rhode Miguel on a ball sent forward from Rooney, and a strong run by VUHS middie Kylie Comeau forced a corner kick on which Rooney shot high.
“We just talked about being more aggressive,” McClay said. “That was the biggest difference for us, just that mindset.”
The Eagles regrouped to press down the stretch, and Johnston, Guy, Harvey and Harris all created chances, but Gosliga and the VUHS back line answered the call.
“Our backs, Sophia, Emily and Morgan (Lynk), everyone back there, they did what they needed to do,” McClay said.
Overall, McClay said chemistry and confidence are behind the Commodores’ surge. 
“I think it’s just us coming together as a team and realizing we have a really good chance this year, and how good we actually are,” she said.

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