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Tiger boys tame T-Birds to nail down No. 5 seed

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer team put the wraps on a successful regular season on Saturday by rallying past visiting Missisquoi Valley Union, 2-1, for the Tigers’ seventh straight win.
The 10-3-1 Tigers apparently earned the No. 5 seed in Division I. It looks like they could host Mount Anthony (7-7) on Tuesday at 3 p.m., with No. 3 Essex possibly up next in a quarterfinal. The VPA was set to release pairings early on Monday.
To pick up their 10th win the Tigers had to regroup after MVU, at 6-5-3 the No. 4 seed in D-II, came at them hard in the first 15 minutes and took the lead three minutes in. That’s when Justus Boudreau left-footed a ball into left side from a scramble that followed the second of two consecutive T-Bird corner kicks.
But the Tigers began to control the game with their ball movement, although they did not attack consistently until the second half. Tiger middies Eben Jackson, Ben Turner and Owen Palcsik were instrumental in getting the Tigers settled and into their possession game. Defenders Ben Crawford, Spencer Doran, Devon Kearns and Joseph Findlay also routinely stepped up to help control the ball and put pressure on MVU.
In the first half the shots at goal were 5-5, but in the second the Tigers outshot the T-Birds, 12-1. Tiger striker Tucker Moulton, converting a Jackson rebound, and Palcsik, from Kearns, each scored in the final 17:24.
Turner, a senior co-captain, said it came down to the Tigers imposing their style of play on the hard-working, but less technical, T-Birds — and also realizing they had to match MVU’s intensity.
“That’s our game and we’ve really got to get into it. Once we get into that mode we really start going at them and start getting all those beautiful chances,” Turner said, adding, “As a team we just had to realize that we’re not playing good and that we had to play better, and more importantly working harder.”
MUHS Coach Reeves Livesay had a similar take.
“Once we were able to battle hard and start winning the 50-50s and just getting a little more ball control, then we were able to take over the tempo of the game,” Livesay said. “But at the start Missisquoi was doing a great job of putting us under pressure and winning the 50-50 balls.”
In the first half MVU didn’t have more good looks at Tiger goalie Lucas Palcsik, who finished with three saves. The Tigers did press, and Moulton tipped an Owen Connelly serve past MVU keeper Kyle Gilbert (three saves), but defender Ethan Teague cleared it off the goal line. Owen Palcsik also one-timed a Moulton feed from the left just wide of the right post.
In the second half Moulton, Turner, Kearns and Palcsik all created chances before Moulton tied the game at 17:24. Jackson started the play with a 24-yard rip outside the box that deflected off a defender toward the right of the penalty stripe. The onrushing Moulton slammed the loose ball home into the left side of the net
A couple minutes later Palcsik tapped the ball off the left post on a lofted Turner direct kick. At 5:22 Palcsik made no mistake on Kearns’ long diagonal serve from the right side, taking a touch and then right-footing home a 10-yard shot into the right corner at 5:12.
MVU pressed in the final two minutes, but Findlay three times denied Boudreau runs on the right flank to nail down the win.
MUHS MIDDIE OWEN Palcsik shoots at goal during the Tigers’ 2-1 victory over Missisquoi on Saturday. Palcsik scored in the second half. MUHS earned the No. 5 seed in Division I and will host a game on Tuesday.
Photo courtesy of Angus Findlay
This past Wednesday MUHS made first-half goals from Anthony GarnerandJackson stand up in a 2-0 win at Milton. Two Yellowjacket goalies combined for 12 saves, while the Tigers limited Milton to two shots on Lucas Palcsik.
Livesay said as they enter the D-I postseason the Tigers should remember what worked well in Saturday’s second half, especially when attacking.
“We need to be assertive, and ready to go from the first whistle,” he said.
Turner said the Tigers are looking forward to the challenge of “playing a lot of tough teams” in the D-I playoffs.
“I’m feeling pretty excited to test our team out,” Turner said. “I think we have a good chance to go far in the tournament.”

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