Commodore boys’ soccer are strong in season opener

Commodore forward Xavier DeBlois notches the home team’s second goal, holding off Paine Mountain defender Hayden Sargent to fire home a left-foot shot after teammate Elijah Duprey’s blast rebounded from the crossbar in the second half of Friday’s win in Vergennes. Independent photo/Steve James

VERGENNES — The boys’ soccer season at Vergennes Union High School got off to a promising start on Friday, when the Commodores dominated visiting Paine Mountain, a collective team from the Northfield-Williamstown area, in a 2-0 victory.

The Commodores allowed just four shots at goal, only two of which junior goalie Abram Francis had to parry; launched 21 of their own, 10 on target; consistently won 50-50 challenges; and showed more than respectable amounts of creativity and purpose in their ball movement. 

Coach Kevin Hayes had asked for more variety and patience on the attack, and at least on Friday the Commodores responded, combining dangerous runs on both flanks with probing through balls and a few longer serves over the top.

The Commodores also bottled up Paine Mountain in its own end with a high press intended to limit their opponents’ clearing options, one reason Hayes said his team so consistently won 50-50 balls — the Commodores at midfield could anticipate where the ball was going.

“That’s the system. They work up there and make it predictable where the ball will go,” he said. “They bought into it, and it’s working right now.”

The defensive plan also worked, with the all-senior backline of Jonah Mahé in the middle and Hayden Bowen and Michael Serpico on the flanks shutting down Paine Mountain’s attack, with significant help from the two holding, or more defensively oriented, central midfielders, junior Parker Kayhart and sophomore Oakley Francis. 

Mahé, who also switched positions with Francis early in the second half and stepped into the attack to score the first VUHS goal, explained how the Commodores were able to shut down Paine Mountain.

“In our practices we’ve been working on defensive shape very heavy. I think the defensive mindset and communication has increased in the past week and a half of preseason,” Mahé said, adding the skill and organization of the central defensive midfielders “led to a lot more possession and defensive coordination.”

Mahé agreed with Hayes that the emphasis on disrupting opponents’ possession and being more aggressive at midfield is paying off.

“Force them to take that big touch, and then let the next guy get it if you don’t. If we’re organized and communicating you can take that pass and you can move with it,” Mahé said. “That kind of grit is something we’ve communicated a lot, and I think it really helped us out on this field today.”

The Commodores started getting chances early, several of them involving junior central middie Jack Wyman and junior striker Shamus Rooney. 

Wyman sent Rooney in alone in the 11th minute, but Rooney shot wide right. Paine Mountain goalie Ethan Miller, who made eight saves, snagged a Rooney drive in the 19th minute. And a back blocked Wyman’s bid from the left in the 25th minute. 

Francis made both of his saves, both routine, in the first half. He also came out well on a couple of serves into the box and on the only Paine Mountain corner kick to nullify danger.

Mahé saw a defender block his bid late in the first half, and junior flank middie Eli Duprey nearly tucked home a Rooney feed in the final minute.

Mahé broke the ice in the second half’s fourth minute. Senior forward Ethan Gebo led him perfectly into the box from the left side, and from just inside the penalty stripe Mahé found the lower left corner with a low shot. 

The Commodores kept getting chances, including a Gebo header on one of four second-half corners. Paine Mountain had a chance to tie, but Logan Amell’s powerful shot from the 18 after a failed clearance sailed just wide left in the 14th minute.

Four minutes later junior Xavier DeBlois made it 2-0. Duprey’s 35-yard bomb bounced off the crossbar, and DeBlois was first to the carom. He shielded the ball from a defender and left-footed the ball inside the left post from close range. 

Paine Mountain didn’t threaten again, but the Commodores did — conversion of chances was arguably the least efficient part of their effort on Friday.

But Hayes said with the rest of their system starting to click the goals should arrive in due time. 

“The finishing in the final third, it will come,” he said. “I think it’s there.”

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