Sports

Tiger boys’ soccer falls to Harwood despite late comeback

TIGER STRIKER ZACH Wilkerson makes a move to attack the Highlander defense during Wednesday's semifinal in Middlebury. Wilkerson drew a foul that led to a successful Tiger penalty kick, but visiting No. 3 Harwood topped No. 2 MUHS in overtime. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — Despite a stirring rally while playing the final 27 minutes short a player and a head coach after simultaneous red cards, the season came to an end for the No. 2 seed Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer team on Nov. 2, when No. 3 Harwood escaped with a 3-2 overtime victory.

The Tigers trailed the 15-2 Highlanders, 2-0, with 23 minutes left in regulation when center midfielder Ollie Anderson received a red card and was sent off.

MUHS had already received a handful of cards, and the head referee had stopped play late in the first half to warn both teams to tamp down rough play and end constant complaints about the officiating, many coming from the Tigers.

In the play in question Anderson and a Highlander made contact going after a ball, and the Harwood player went down, quite possibly a little too easily. Anderson left with 23 minutes left in regulation, and Tiger Coach Chris George, already having received a yellow card for dissent, received a red card for objecting to the call. He was told to stay “out of sight and sound” for the rest of the game.

MUHS MIDFIELDER IVER Anderson tied a Nov. 2 D-II semifinal with this rebound goal late in the second half. But in overtime No. 3 Harwood defeated the No. 2 Tigers, who played much of the game shorthanded.
Independent photo/Steve James

Tiger Assistant Coach Jeff Carpenter took over at that point.

The Tigers had gotten off to a ragged start and allowed two goals in the first 12 minutes, one on a justly called penalty kick, to Harwood standout Jordan Shullenberger. Those two strikes brought his career total to 75.

But after the red cards the Tigers took over the rest of regulation despite playing a man down and without Anderson, their senior captain and a key playmaker.

Their first golden chance came with about 18 minutes left, when striker Zach Wilkerson deflected a shot past Harwood goalie Liam Combs. But defender Liam Porterfield cleared it off the goal line near the right post. A minute later forward Ronen Silberman got a good look from long range on a feed from back Trey Bosworth, but his bid sailed over the crossbar.

The Tigers kept pressing, and Wilkerson made a run into the left side of the box and drew a foul at 11:59 — again, a penalty kick was fairly assessed. Midfield Ollie Choudhury buried it into the right side of the net as Combs guessed wrong, and it was 2-1.

MUHS SENIOR CAPTAIN Ollie Anderson soars in front of a Harwood player to make a play on the ball during the No. 2 Tigers’ overtime loss to the No. 3 Highlanders in a Wednesday D-II semifinal.
Independent photo/Steve James

The Tigers kept moving the ball purposefully and pressing Harwood, which was kicking long and hoping for the best. The Highlanders’ wishes were not immediately granted. The Tigers forced a foul about 40 yards directly out from goal with less than 4 minutes left, and defender Gus Hodde tested Combs.

He made the save, but the rebound drifted to the right of the penalty stripe to middie Iver Anderson, who calmly deposited the ball inside the right post to tie the game.

Despite being outshot, 5-2, in the first half, the Tigers, even while shorthanded most of the second half, had bounced back to outshoot the Highlanders, 6-4, in the second half, and earn a 3-2 edge in corners. Their two shorthanded goals came at the expense of a Harwood team that had a 61-0 scoring streak and were a fair indication of the team’s quality.

Tiger goalie Owen Lawton, who could not be faulted for the two Shullenberger goals in the first half, made only one of his three saves in the second half. He did his best work in the first half stopping a Shullenberger free kick and then Xavier Brookens on a point-blank rebound. Combs also finished with three saves.

TIGER IVER ANDERSON, right, gets a chest-bump from Zach Wilkerson to celebrate Anderson’s game-tying goal in the team’s Wednesday semifinal. Despite late heroics, No. 3 Harwood topped the No. 2 Tigers in overtime.
Independent photo/Steve James

But no goalie could have gotten what proved to be Harwood’s game-winner. The Highlanders regrouped after regulation and controlled overtime. Early on Tiger back Henry Hunsdorder made a defensive save, and then Harwood earned two corner kicks.

On the second, the ball bounced out to Brookens about five yards outside the box, and his blast carried high into the net with 3:56 on the clock to send Harwood into Saturday’s final against undefeated Montpelier.

Brookens’s bomb also ended another successful season for the 13-3-1 Tigers. They were unbeaten against D-II opponents until the semifinal, and also did not lose during Lake Division play in winning the league title.

The Tigers were also a force in the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The program reached the semifinal round in 2020 and 2021, and reached the final 2019.

Tiger midfielder Ollie Choudhury buries the ball into the net on a penalty kick to spark the Tigers’ comeback.
Independent photo/Steve James

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