Tiger boys lax can’t keep Wolves from the door

MIDDLEBURY — For much of Monday’s home game the Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team had South Burlington on the ropes.
But the Wolves, whose 5-6 record includes a win over six-time Division I champion Champlain Valley and four one-goal losses, finally broke through a tough Tiger zone defense and Tiger sophomore goalie Jack Rizzo in the fourth quarter to earn an 8-5 victory.
MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School sophomore Bode Rubright is closed out by South Burlington defenders during Monday’s boys’ lacrosse game in Middlebury, but he still manages to get a shot away. The Tigers lost the game, 8-5.
Independent photo/Steve James
The 4-6 Tigers took a 3-1 lead in the first quarter, and after the Wolves had tied the game late in the third period at 4-4 MUHS regained the lead on a goal by junior Ian Ploof 1:10 into the fourth period.
But the Tigers then committed a series of turnovers and managed only one shot at goal over the next six minutes as the Wolves scored four straight times.
MUHS Coach Matt Rizzo saw pluses in his team’s performance.
JUNIOR KAM BARTLETT gets a clear sight of goal, but his shot was saved by the South Burlington goalie Brett Bohlmann in the second half of the Tigers vs. Wolves game on Monday in Middlebury.
Independent photo/Steve James
“Jack played really well in the net today. He kept us in it a bit today. And the defense played great,” Rizzo said. “So there are some positives there.”
But he said the Tigers’ strong efforts can only go so far if they cannot hang onto the ball.
“This team does not lack hustle. It does not lack heart. And we work really, really hard. We just talked about it at the end of the game. We shoot ourselves in the foot,” Rizzo said. “We work really hard, with super hustle, and we get the ball on offense and then we throw it away. That’s the story of our year so far. If we could save those passes we could be good.”
BODE RUBRIGHT MANAGES to get off a pass even as he falls over an opponent’s dropped stick in the second half of MUHS’s home loss to South Burlington.
Independent photo/Steve James
The Tigers took the lead 3:05 into the game after an SB penalty. Senior Kolby Farnsworth, stationed on the left side, took a pass from sophomore Bode Rubright from the right side and fired a low 10-yard shot back inside the right post.
Wolf Joe Balkan dodged in at 6:17 to tie the score, but Tiger sophomore middie Mason Kaufmann ran in from the right side and found the left corner at 3:09 to restore the lead. With 1.3 seconds left in the period freshman Eddie Hodde’s bouncer from the top of the box found its way in through traffic to make it 3-1 in Middlebury’s favor. Rizzo stopped four shots in the period, including Nico Strempek’s point-blank bid eight minutes in.
SB scored the only goal of the second period as the Tigers failed to convert after three SB penalties. Rizzo stopped five shots (getting his hands on Cam Chiari’s doorstep shot probably the best of the bunch), and defenders and long-stick middies Derek Felkl, Trysten Quesnel, Hunter Gale, Matthew Kiernan and Colton Paquette all did good work.
MIDDLEBURY SENIOR CO-CAPTAIN Kolby Farnsworth tussles with a South Burlington defender early in the second half as the Tigers held a slim lead.
Independent photo/Steve James
The goal came when Rizzo did well to deny Griffin Lawrence, but Rees Baker stuffed the rebound home at 8:32. Rubright created two chances, but SB goalie Brett Bohlmann (12 saves) stopped one and the other rang the post.
SB tied the game with a man-up goal at 8:29 of the third: Balkan converted a Dylan LeClair feed. The Tigers regained the lead with 1:00 left in the period when junior middie Thatcher Trudeau converted a Farnsworth feed from behind the net while absorbing an illegal check.
But the Tigers were not awarded possession because of a verbal conduct offense, and SB won the faceoff and scored with 0:05 on the clock, with Strempek netting a long pass from LeClair.
Undeterred, the Tigers took a 5-4 lead 1:10 into the fourth quarter, when Ploof beat Bohlmann after taking a Rubright feed from the left side.
MIDFIELDER BEN CRAWFORD, a Middlebury senior and joint captain, carries the ball into the South Burlington zone and takes a slash from a defender.
Independent photo/Steve James
Then the Wolves came on strong. Rizzo stopped Lawrence and LeClair, but Lawrence dodged in to tie the game at 6:42. Farnsworth shot just wide shortly afterward, and the Wolves scored in transition at 5:25, with Strempek finishing. Thirty-six seconds later Joe Balkan set up Will Balkan to make it 7-5. Another 38 seconds later, Aaron Murikami added another fast-break goal, and those four scores in 4:31 sealed the Tigers’ fate.
On the hustle end Ploof scooped five ground balls to lead MUHS, senior middie Tucker Moulton and Kaufmann picked up four apiece, and Zeke Hooper helped the Tigers win nine of 15 draws.
Coach Rizzo said that if the Tigers can add a little more execution to that hustle they could still surprise.
“It’s about fundamentals. We’ve got to catch and throw. We’ve got to scoop ground balls. We’ve got to clear. We’ve got to ride,” he said. “If we do those things, we’ll be fine.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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