VUHS boys’ soccer gets historic win at Mount Abe
BRISTOL — The Vergennes Union High School boys’ soccer team has boldly gone where no team in the program has gone before — to the top seed in a boys’ soccer postseason tournament.
Host Mount Abraham on Saturday made sure the final steps on that journey didn’t come easily, scoring two goals 20 seconds apart in the game’s 69th minute to cut the Commodores’ lead to 3-2.
But the Commodores righted the ship and controlled most of the final 10 minutes to finish the game with a 3-2 wing and finished the shortened season with a 7-1-1 record, good enough because of a tougher schedule to edge out No. 2 Fairfax in quality points despite the Bullets’ 8-0 record.
Coach Kevin Hayes said a lot has gone right for the Commodores, whose signature win this season came over then undefeated defending D-II champion Stowe.
It has helped, especially with this fall’s limited preseason and late start, that the team’s roster includes nine seniors.
“Obviously we’ve got some experience,” Hayes said.
Three of those seniors start on defense — Tucker Stearns and Aidan Gebo in the middle and Xander DeBlois on the left — and one in goal, Gabriel Kadric. Junior Jade Edwards starts on the right. The group has posted five shutouts and, Hayes said, moved the ball with purpose well up the field.
“The defense has been really strong. And working the ball out of the back, which you saw a few times today, has worked really nicely,” Hayes said.
The Commodores have also received scoring from a number of sources, including junior striker Jonah Mahé, senior strikers Jonathan Willis and Avery Husk, senior midfielder Jarret Muzzy, and Stearns from the back on set plays.
“We’ve got some good finishers,” Hayes said. “We’ve got some speed. We’ve got a lot of good recipes for a complete team.”
The Commodores also move the ball well at midfield and show some grit, with sophomores Shamus Rooney and Jack Wyman, senior Adam Sausville and junior Ethan Gebo among the key parts.
“They’ve obviously got some resolve,” Hayes said. “They’re a more composed and skilled team.”
With wind and rain at their back in Saturday’s first half, the Commodores controlled action against their 2-6 rivals and took a 2-0 lead.
The first goal on Saturday came in the fourth minute. A Muzzy throw-in from the right came to Willis. He settled the ball at least five yards out from the Eagle box and lined up a left-footed blast that curled inside the far post.
Shots on goal were few, however. Eagle goalie Creed Stillwell (three saves overall) did well to knock away a Mahé free kick in the 11th minute for the better of his two stops in the half.
The Eagles had a golden chance to equalize on their two first-half shots. Kadric (three saves) dove to stop a long Joe Graziadei bid, and the rebound bounced to Branden Reynolds cutting toward the left post. But Reynolds couldn’t put the bounding ball on frame.
VUHS padded the lead in the 32nd minute. Stillwell tried to boot away a backpass, but got under it. A gust carried the spinning ball backwards over the end line for a corner. Willis bent the kick past Stillwell, a strike that was ticketed for the far corner. An Eagle back tried to clear it away, but the ball could only complete its journey into the back of the net.
Play evened after the half, but Mahé made it 3-0 on a breakaway in the 19th minute. Mahé outran the backline from midfield and finished low into the left side.
The Eagles got onto the scoreboard with 10:33 to go. Judah Jackson’s low serve from the right side made it through to defender Griff Paradee just past the penalty stripe, and Paradee poked it home into the left side.
Twenty seconds later a mixup on the VUHS defense allowed the ball to roll to Jake Lucarelli just inside the 18, and he drilled the ball high into the upper left corner as the Eagle bench erupted.
A minute later Neil Guy had a look from just outside the box, but his bid sailed high and wide right. That was the last good chance, and the Commodores possessed during the rest of the play. Only Eagle back Latham Lomax’s sensational goal-line block on Mahé kept it a one-goal game.
Eagle coach Bobby Russell would have liked to have seen two good halves.
“Vergennes, they’re a good squad, right? They played really well in the first half, and we had a really hard time progressing the ball forward,” Russell said. “We were able to adjust a little bit here and there in the second half and gain a little bit more of a foothold. Unfortunately it didn’t come until a little later.”
Russell said the Eagles are looking forward to the D-II postseason.
“I don’t think they feel like their work is done. We’ll come out and see what the playoff picture looks like and work hard for each other, as we always do,” he said.
And, of course, Hayes said the same of the top-seeded Commodores in D-III.
“We have the makings of a team that can have a good run,” he said.
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