Sports

Tiger boys’ soccer clips Tide

MIDDLEBURY — Simply defeating winless Spaulding at home on Tuesday was not a good indicator of the quality of the Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer team, nor was the final 7-0 score. 
But there’s something to be said for scoring five goals in the first 17 minutes, including a three-goal outburst in less than two minutes: They blew the game open with that outburst in the ninth and 10th minutes before Coach Reeves Livesay began subbing freely. 
Going deep into the bench did not change the game flow: The Tigers outshot the Tide, 24-2. One Tide shot posed a mild challenge for Tiger sophomore keeper Owen Lawton. After the Tigers’ fourth goal, Lawton tipped Tide junior Ryan Glassford’s header over the bar, a save that came after one of the two Spaulding corner kicks. The Tigers had nine. 
The Tigers improved to 5-1-1. Their tie came early at 6-1-1 Vergennes, and they lost at home last week, 3-2, to undefeated Milton, Division II’s first-place team. MUHS has outscored its foes, 28-6. 
After reaching the D-II final a year ago, the Tigers appear to have clinched a top-four seed again, along with defending champion Stowe, Milton and Harwood. Their regular season ends at Milton on Friday, and the Vermont Principals’ Association will release tournament pairings on Monday.
The Tigers struck in the second minute on Tuesday. Senior forward Owen Connelly on the right side — where he was a constant threat — beat his defender and fed senior midfielder Andy Giorgio in the near side of the box. Giorgio found senior striker Alex Bleich alone near the far post, and Bleich one-timed it home.
Play was a bit ragged for a few minutes, but then the Tiger midfield asserted itself, winning balls, passing quickly and crisply, and creating threats. Giorgio, junior Henry Carpenter and sophomore Oliver Anderson were notably effective.
“I thought we did a very nice job working the ball around, getting a little quicker tempo on the ball,” Livesay said.
The dam broke in the ninth minute, starting when the Tigers worked the ball into the box from the left to Anderson. A defender blocked his first shot from the top of the box, but the rebound rolled back to him, and he buried a shot into the right side of the net.
The Tigers repossessed after the kickoff and sent Connelly down the right side again. He cut into the box and drilled a low shot past Tide keeper Trevor Arsenault (five saves), who really had little chance to stop any of the Tiger scores.
Less than a minute later the Tigers were firing away again. This time a shot ricocheted to Giorgio a few yards off the right post, and he found the left side to make it 4-0. 
Lawton then denied the only Tide threat. In the 17th minute Tiger senior Andrew Lee converted another loose ball in the Tiger box, and it was 5-0, a score that held until the half. 
In the second half’s fifth minute Bleich netted a Giorgio feed from the left, and Carpenter closed the scoring in the ninth minute with a well-struck, 25-yard left-footed shot that beat a screened Arsenault into the left side of the net. 
Lawton made a routine stop in the late going to preserve the shutout, the Tigers’ third of the season by their goalie and rebuilt defense.
Junior Greg Wilhelm and sophomore Trey Bosworth start on the outside. Senior Oliver Poduschnick and junior Eddie Hodde are the center backs, but both have dealt with nagging injuries, Livesay said, and senior defensive middie Lucas Nelson has been pressed into duty there. Nelson played most of the game on Tuesday, with Poduschnick and Hodde rotating in.
“Our defense has come together very quickly,” Livesay said. “It’s a short season with a lot of new faces there. I think they’ve done a really good job communicating and playing well together as a cohesive unit.”
The offense has also been effective, he said.
“We’ve been a little quicker to find the spaces behind the back line. We’ve had some pretty good sharp finishing this year,” Livesay said.
What will it take to make a strong playoff run?
“We just need to continue to do the things we’ve been doing so far, which is really creating a pretty quick tempo in the midfield and moving the ball so there are good penetrating passes,” Livesay said.
The coach already rates the pandemic-shortened season a success.
“The group is having a really good time,” Livesay said. “To me soccer is about the most normal thing going on right now. So it’s just really great to be out here.”

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