Eagle girls’ soccer bests Commodores

MOUNT ABE MIDFIELDER Natalie Atkins shields Vergennes defender Anna Carr in the first half of the Eagles’ 2-0 home win on Tuesday. Mount Abe came on strong in the second half. Independent photo/Steve James

VERGENNES — In a Tuesday battle of rebuilding high school girls’ soccer programs, host Mount Abraham defeated Vergennes, 2-0, after taking charge and scoring twice in the second half.

The Division II Eagles improved to 2-7, a record that includes five losses against D-I opposition. The Commodores, who faced heavy graduation losses from the 2020 team that made the program’s fourth straight appearance in a D-III final, dropped to 1-8.

The Eagles controlled play for the first 20 minutes, but generated few chances. VUHS goalie Carlyn Rapoport made one of her two first-half saves by denying Nell Harvey after a corner kick, while Eagle goalie Jo Toy easily handled VUHS middie Allie Croke’s bid on a 24-yard free kick drawn by a strong Felicia Poirier run. It was the first of her two total saves.

VUHS MIDFIELDER ALLIE Croke shields the ball from Mount Abraham middie Ellie Thomas during the second half of the Commodores’ 2-0 loss in Bristol on Tuesday. The Eagles scored both goals after the break. Independent photo/Steve James

The Commodores had their most competitive stretch of the game in the half’s final 20 minutes as they started to win more 50-50 balls and disrupt the Eagle attack, but did not create another scoring chance.

Still, in the late going, Rapoport came out to beat Eagle middie Natalie Atkins to a through ball, and senior Eagle striker Illia Dennison’s long shot from the right hit the outside of the post.

Both coaches agreed the Eagles turned up the heat after the break. Mount Abe’s Dustin Corrigan said the Eagles played with more intensity and poise, particularly in moving the ball better through midfield and using their wings to break down the VUHS defense.

“What we talked about for the second half they translated onto the field, and that’s always a good sign,” Corrigan said. “We talked about being more purposeful, playing to feet.”

VUHS Co-Coach Peter Maneen said he and colleague Dwight Irish tweaked the lineup in search of more punch, but things didn’t pan out.

“We definitely didn’t match the intensity in the second half,” Maneen said. “We were trying some different things and finding out what’s working and not working. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it working today.”

The Eagles had outshot the Commodores, 8-1, in the first half, and piled up a 14-2 edge after the break. They earned their first of seven second-half corner kicks in the half’s second minute, and a minute later broke through by forcing an own goal.

The Eagles repossessed after VUHS broke up the corner and attacked down the left side. They served in, and two Eagles, Louisa Painter and Nell Harvey, went after the ball. Painter appeared to get a touch, and after a double deflection off the defense the ball spun home just inside the right post.

The Commodores had a chance to tie in the half’s ninth minute after Poirier served a corner kick from the right side. The Eagles made the initial clear, but middie Kaelin Sullivan sent the ball back into the mix. But Croke could not direct the ball on net in the crowd.

Chances were rare for VUHS as the Eagle back line of Annie Dufault, Elena Bronson, Patty McEnerny and Sophie Venman played well. Maneen also credited his defenders, Ella Hameline, Jing Williams, Emerson Rice, Anna Carr, and Alaina LeBeau off the bench. LeBeau, Carr and Emily Lowe each made goal-saving blocks, and Rapoport finished with six saves.

EAGLE BACK ANNIE Dufault battles with Commodore forward Felicia Poirier for control of the ball in the second half of Mount Abraham’s 2-0 home win on Tuesday. Mount Abe scored twice after intermission. Independent photo/Steve James

But at 19:47, Dennison broke loose to make it 2-0. She took a feed from the right from forward Maia Jensen just outside the box and one-timed a shot high into the back of the net.

The goal was just the Eagles’ third of the season, and the Eagles celebrated.

“It did feel nice, but honestly I was set up positively by everyone on the team,” said Dennison, one of just four Eagle seniors. Venman, Bronson, and striker Halle Huizenga are the others.

Corrigan said despite the Eagles’ losses, their effort has remained a constant, and their attitude has remained positive. He said those seniors have played a large part in those pluses.

“The strength of our opponents has been very difficult in a year where we’re kind of rebuilding,” Corrigan said. “But they have embraced that challenge and learned from every game. And I give my seniors and the leaders on the team for keeping the group and themselves staying very positive even when things got really hard.”

VUHS GOALIE CARLYN Rapoport dives to beat Mount Abraham striker Halle Huizenga to the ball following a first-half corner kick. The Commodores surrendered two goals in the second half as the Eagles earned the home win over their county rivals. Independent photo/Steve James

Dennison agreed the team’s chemistry has remained intact, and believes the Eagles’ mindset and tough schedule have both improved their play.

“We have a strong foundation of our love for soccer. And that is sort of built on our love for each other and our love for the team. So it’s not so much about winning as it is about having fun at this point. And we’re starting to play to our level, which is nice,” she said.

She also said the Eagles can build on a strong win like Tuesday’s.

“Absolutely, I think so,” Dennison said. “I’m excited for the rest of the season, for sure.”

Maneen said the Commodores will continue to search for answers, particularly at midfield.

“We have to find a way to possess at the midfield and link from the back to the forwards, and right now unfortunately it’s not happening,” he said. “So we’ll keep working. We’ll get there. We’ve got some more time to figure it out.”

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