MUHS boys even score with Commodores

MIDDLEBURY — Tuesday’s boys’ soccer game between visiting Vergennes Union High School and host Middlebury was a rematch of a Sept. 25 game that proved to be pivotal for both the Commodores and Tigers.
On that day the host Commodores hung a 1-0 upset on a Tiger team that probably took them a little too lightly. Since then, VUHS had reeled off four straight wins to improve to 6-4 heading into Tuesday and put itself in line for a Division III playoff home game.
And after his team lost that game, Tiger Coach Reeves Livesay talked to his team about playing a full 80 minutes every time out. And they had responded with three straight wins to improve to 6-3-1 before this week.
On Tuesday Livesay saw more of the same as his Tigers controlled play in a 3-0 victory, one that also moved them into position for a D-I home game.
“I think they played well. Today was another pretty complete game, where we started well and we played hard all the way through the finish,” Livesay said. “I think we came out with a focus and knew what we wanted to do. We didn’t always execute perfectly, but they we’re really trying to do what we wanted to do and stuck to the game plan.”
Senior forward Tucker Moulton sparked the offense with two goals, the first of which came in the 10th minute and was the product of a pretty build-up.
Moulton said the Tigers have been working hard on both what they do well, such as attack opposing defenses through the middle with the help of their talented central midfielders, and what the need to improve, such pressuring defenses from the flanks. At the same time, he said, they have taken Livesay’s message about focus to heart.
“We’ve just been developing both what we’re not the best at and what we’re good at,” Moulton said. “And I think mentality is a lot of it. We went into the first game thinking that we had it in the bag, and that was obviously a mistake, because mentality is a huge contributor to how you play in a game. And so think after that loss we just decided we had to be a lot more mentally focused and we had to train and condition and just get better overall.”
Commodore Coach Kevin Hayes said his team could have played better, but credited the Tigers.
“They played really, really well. You’ve got to hand it to them. They moved the ball well, made us chase a lot. We came out flat, stayed flat, and really didn’t find our purpose,” Hayes said. “We weren’t able to connect passes, and it was partly them, partly us.”
Hayes said team defense — VUHS had allowed one goal in its five wins, with goalie Gabriel Kadric and defenders Jack Halpin and Kai Williams in the middle and Jonathan Willis and Robbie Bicknell on the flanks doing good work — and opportunistic scoring, a fair share of it from Ezekiel Palmer, had sparked his team’s winning streak.
TIGER SENIOR BEN Turner looks for an opening during Tuesday’s game against Vergennes Union High School.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
“We’ve been very tight defensively,” Hayes said. “Those half-chances we talked about earlier in the season, we’ve been able to capitalize on those. And playing defense in the other team’s half, we’ve been able to press a little bit more than we did today, and we’ve been able to move the ball well in their half.”
But on Tuesday the Tigers made life tough on the Commodores from the start. The back line of Ben Crawford and Spencer Doran in the middle and Devon Kearns and Joseph Lindsay on the flanks allowed only four shots on starting goalie Lucas Palcsik and reserve Logan Pierson-Flagg, who played the final 10 minutes. Central midfielders Eben Jackson, Ben Turner and Owen Palcsik consistently dictated play and disrupted the Commodores, and Moulton posed a constant threat.
The first goal came after the Tigers crisply switched the ball at midfield from the right side to Findlay near the left sideline. He found Turner back near the center dot, and Turner quickly forwarded the ball to Jackson. The quick movement and use of width created space, and Jackson relayed the ball to Moulton cutting straight into the right side of the box, and he found the lower left side.
Kadric made four of his six saves in the first half to keep the score at 1-0, including diving to knock a close-range Anthony Garner header wide right. Turner, Owen Palcsik and Owen Connelly were among Tigers who had good looks. The Commodores earned two late corner kicks, but Lucas Palcsik tracked down Josias Salomao’s long bid on one, and Turner headed away the other.
Moulton made it 2-0 in the second half’s seventh minute. The Tigers worked the ball to him along the 18, and he moved from right to left along the top of the box to create space for a left-footed shot before unleashing a bullet inside the left post.
VERGENNES UNION HIGH School junior Jeffrey Stearns charges around Middlebury defender Benjamin Crawford Tuesday afternoon. Middlebury won the game, 3-0.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Kadric soon afterward went to his knees to deflect a Connelly shot from the right side wide and dove to knock away an Andy Giorgio bid. But after Henry Carpenter’s strong run drew a Commodore foul in the box Jackson made it 3-0 by lacing a penalty kick into the left side at 18:10.
After Lucas Palcsik corralled Cameron Mclaughlin’s low 18-yard shot toward the left corner for his final save, Pierson-Flagg came in. Mclaughlin had a shot sail wide, and Pierson-Flagg ranged out of the penalty area to knock a dangerous Jeffrey Stearns free kick out of harm’s way in the 33rd minute. That play erased the best VUHS chance to avoid the shutout. In all, the Tigers outshot the Commodores, 19-4.
Hayes said the Commodores can bounce back by relying on their defense and regaining their offensive poise.
“We’ll go back to that template. I’m confident we can,” he said.
Moulton said the Tigers were determined to play better vs. the Commodores this time around.
“We’re were trying to be dialed in, focused, but we were also fired up because we knew that it was a home game, it was a team that we have a bit of a rivalry with. I know a couple of the guys from the other side, so there’s always a bit of competition between us. So I think we were excited to go into this and try to play a lot harder. And I think we did that,” he said.
And Moulton believes the Tigers can continue to succeed if they remember the lessons they have learned since the loss at VUHS.
“If we bring the same level of skill, the same tactics that we’ve used, and the same intensity, then I think that we’ll produce the results that we want for the rest of the season,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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