Sports

VUHS boys surge past Eagles in second half

EAGLE FORWARD ELI Burgess, left, has the inside track on the ball as VUHS midfielder Parker Kayhart moves in during the visiting Commodores’ 3-0 victory on Friday. VUHS improved to 6-0-1 heading into a Monday game vs. Milton. Independent photo/Steve James

BRISTOL — The Vergennes Union High School boys’ soccer team on Friday erupted for three second-half goals to knock off rival Mount Abraham, 3-0, on the Eagles’ home field.

The victory set up the 6-0-1 Commodores for a showdown of unbeaten teams on Monday, when they host Milton with first place in the Lake Division on the line.

The Commodores got two goals from forward Shamus Rooney, a goal (on a penalty kick) and an assist from center midfielder Jack Wyman, and an assist from middie Alisdair Chauvin.

EAGLE DEFENDER GAVIN Bannister clears the ball away from onrushing VUHS midfielder Alisdair Chauvin during the Commodores’ 3-0 win at Mount Abe on Friday. Commodore forward Ethan Gebo moves in from the left. Independent photo/Steve James

And the defensive back line of Jonah Mahé in the middle (Oakley Francis filled in there when Mahé helped spark the attack in the second half) and Michael Serpico and Jade Edwards on the flanks limited the Eagles to 10 shots, three of which goalie Elijah Duprey had to stop. Duprey was filling in for Abram Francis, expected back soon.

VUHS Coach Kevin Hayes praised his defense, which recorded its sixth clean sheet in seven games; only Middlebury earlier last week has scored vs. the Commodores.

“The back line is solid. One goal in seven games. I just can’t believe that,” Hayes said.

Meanwhile the 3-3-1 Eagles saw a two-game winning streak that included a win at Middlebury snapped. They worked hard, and a backline keyed by Neal Guy and Henry Cogswell helped the Eagles to limit the Commodores to 11 shots, four on net.

MOUNT ABE MIDFIELDER Judah Jackson, right, controls the ball, and VUHS forward Brad Kutchukian challenges him during the game at Mount Abe on Friday. The Commodores improved to 6-0-1 with a 3-0 victory. They will host Milton on Monday. Independent photo/Steve James

Backup keeper Chance Denecker, filling in for injured starter Creed Stillwell, also expected back soon, could not be faulted for the VUHS goals.

All of the VUHS shots on target came in the second half. The Commodores held a slight territorial edge in the first half, but had only one true chance: Wyman one-timed an open shot high from close range on a Rooney serve.

But the Commodores were more efficient in the second half, with Mahé’s move to offensive midfield factoring into the first goal. He beat two defenders down the left side and served to Chauvin on the far side. Chauvin one-timed a low, 15-yard shot back off the left post, and Rooney tapped home the rebound 1:19 after halftime.

Wyman said that quick goal after the break sparked the Commodores.

“Once we score one goal we get the momentum we need. We get the energy to move forward as a team, get talking, get riled up, want to win those 50-50 balls,” Wyman said.

Hayes said Mahé often gives the attack a lift when he moves from center back to the offensive midfield.

“We can move Jonah up and give them a different look. Right in the second half we did it, and it worked. We got the immediate impact,” Hayes said.

Eagle Coach Rider MacCrellish agreed that goal was a turning point. He was happy with the Eagles’ hustle and defense in the first half, but not with what he said was a lack of offensive poise and movement off the ball.

“I think we came out for the second half thinking we were going to step it up another notch,” MacCrellish said. “I think we have a lot more potential than we were showing in the first half. That was not the best soccer we can play.”

Instead, he said the Commodores’ first goal hurt the Eagles’ confidence, and despite the level of success the Eagles have enjoyed, they can be inconsistent.

EAGLE GOALIE CHANCE Denecker dives in vain on Friday as a second-half penalty kick from Commodore Jack Wyman, far left, nestles into the corner. The visiting Commodores prevailed, 3-0, to remain undefeated heading into a Monday showdown vs. Milton. Independent photo/Steve James

“I can watch them hang their heads and get down. We’ve talked about the mental side of the game, and the mental side of the game is you have to play every play like you’re playing to win,” MacCrellish said.

The Eagles did have chances in the first half. The best came when Duprey had to dive to his right to snare a Jake Lucarelli header set up by a Guy direct kick, and later on he denied Eli Burgess from outside the box. Both teams attempted five shots, but none of the Commodores’ efforts were on target.

That changed after the break, when the Commodores found the range. The Eagles had a chance on their own direct kick 11 minutes in, but Duprey tracked down a 25-yard Burgess drive.

At 23:41 Wyman made it 2-0. He beat a defender with a strong run into the box, drew a foul, and drilled the penalty kick low into the left side.

The Eagles’ best chance the rest of the way came when Judah Jackson sent Burgess into the box, but Mahé broke up the play.

Rooney and Wyman teamed up to put the game out of reach at 11:46. The Commodores moved the ball to Wyman 15 yards out from the right post, and he cleverly backheeled the ball to an open Rooney. Rooney zipped a hard left-footed shot just inside the right post.

VUHS FORWARD SHAMUS Rooney lets this shot rip on Friday as Eagle Neil Guy tries in vain to block in. Rooney’s shot found the corner and created the final score in the Commodores’ 3-0 win at Mount Abe. Independent photo/Steve James

The Eagles were missing four starters due to injury or excused absences, but MacCrellish said nevertheless a more consistent mindset would allow his team to play to their potential.

“When these guys show up with the authority to get to the ball first and conduct the play, then they have the power to do that,” he said. “And I think sometimes we come out … and there’s a different body language.”

Meanwhile, Wyman said the Commodores are confident moving forward.

“We’re feeling pretty good,” he said. “We’re pretty pumped to concede only one goal, and I think we’re going to go into this last stretch of games this season with a pretty good attitude.”

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