Eagle lax can’t overcome slow start in home opener
BRISTOL — Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative boys’ lacrosse Coach Ed Cook found things to like about the Eagles’ home opener on Saturday: strong defense, decent goaltending, and a high compete level that led to a strong second half.
Cook also listed a few problems: Rust, a slow start, an inexperienced team (many athletes saw their first varsity action after COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season), two key players missing, and too many penalties taken.
The balance sheet ended up on Saturday with a loss, 8-3 to visiting Hartford, although the Eagles scored the first three goals of the second half to cut the lead to 6-3.
And, in fact, they won the second half, 3-2, after settling in and turning the defense up a notch.
Cook was not unhappy afterward, particularly with a defense that returns two starters from 2019, senior Quincy Cook and junior Carmelo Miceli. He said the group didn’t miss a beat with senior Koby LaRose joining the back line.
“I knew what I had in Quin and Melo. Koby was the question mark, and I don’t have any questions any more. He played great,” Cook said.
Senior goalie Aidan Danyow, a backup two years ago, also showed well after getting pelted early before the defense got its sea legs. He made six saves, including two point-blank beauties.
“Aidan … dialed it in in the second half,” Cook said.
Cook also said several of the new players at midfield defended well, both with short and long sticks.
“Colin Dupoise played defensive middie pretty well. Sawyer Shepard and Giles Heilman, they played well for never playing a varsity game before,” Cook said.
Offensively, the Eagles did struggle on Saturday. But Cook said the return of experienced senior attacker Liam Oxford to work with Saturday’s goal-scorers, sophomore attacker Henry Anderson and senior middie Griff Paradee, should give the attack a shot in the arm. And senior defensive middie Jack Chaput will also boost the defense, he added.
“I really missed Liam Oxford and Jack Chaput at the LSM (long-stick middie),” Cook said. “Liam will really help out the attack a lot.”
Hartford struck first when Gordon Willey found the upper left corner in the second minute. The Eagles took a penalty a minute later, and the Hurricanes netted the first of four first-half man-up goals at 8:44 of the opening period, when Carter Nalette snuck into a seam in the slot and bounced home a Joseph Barwood feed.
After Paradee hit the crossbar, the Eagle defense began to show its mettle, at one point forcing five consecutive turnovers. But the Hartford defense was just as solid, and the Eagles were struggling to connect passes.
“These guys haven’t played for two years, basically, so getting back on the field and playing against another team, I think there were a lot of balls thrown away,” Cook said.
Hartford’s Ezra Mock beat the first-period horn to make it 3-0, and three minutes into the second period Hurricane Christopher Pierce made it 4-0 with a man-up score.
After another Eagle penalty, Danyow stuffed Nalette’s point-blank bid. But Barwood scooped the rebound and gave the ball back to Nalette, who made it 5-0. Late in the half, Barwood curled from behind the net and made it 6-0 with another man-up score.
Paradee broke the ice for Mount Abe with a long bomb 2:11 into the second half. The Eagles shortly afterward were hit with simultaneous penalties, one for four minutes, but withstood them with fine defense and a big Danyow save on Barwood.
Then Anderson seemed to gain the confidence to go to goal. At 5:14 of the period he cut in from the left and hit the far side to make it 6-2 with the Eagles a man up. At 3:08 he scored on a similar move, with the ball trickling in off Hartford goalie Tarin Prior (six saves).
But the Eagles’ momentum stalled with turnovers, and Pierce found the net for Hartford from long range at 1:46. Prior made a fine stop on Anderson in the final seconds of the period, and only Hartford’s Willey found the net in the final quarter.
As Cook put it, half a loaf was better than none.
“We took some bad penalties early. And then we dialed it in and we won the second half,” Cook said. “I’m happy with that.”
And he is looking forward to seeing what his team can do once it is at full strength and his younger players gain experience.
“Once we dial it in we’re going to be good,” Cook said. “Especially, we play a D-II schedule for the most part, and then we go into the D-III playoffs. These guys will easily compete once we get to the playoffs.”
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