Eagle girls fly over VUHS

COMMODORE JING WILLIAMS and Eagle Ellie Thomas battle for the ball during Tuesday’s girls’ soccer game at Mount Abe. Independent photo/Steve James

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ soccer team scored early and often in Tuesday’s home game on the way to an 8-1 victory over visiting local rival Vergennes. 

Senior forward Natalie Atkins provided the initial spark, with a goal in the fifth minute and an assist to sophomore leading scorer Isla Underwood in the seventh.

Commodore midfielder Ashtin Stearns got one back for the visitors in the 20th minute, but two minutes later Atkins slipped the ball to junior forward Louisa Painter for a 3-1 lead. By the end of the half the Eagles had tacked on three more goals. 

Mount Abe, coming off a 6-2 loss at Milton on Saturday in which a few minor injuries left them shorthanded, improved to 6-2-1, good for fourth place in Division II. The Eagles have scored 13 goals in their past three games. 

“We’ve been working a lot on finishing, and it’s starting to pay dividends. Early in the year we were leaving a lot of goals on the table,” said Coach Dustin Corrigan.

MOUNT ABE FORWARD Natalie Atkins sprints past VUHS defender Octavia Devine on Tuesday at Mount Abe. Atkins scored the first goal and assisted the next two in the Eagles’ 8-1 win.
Independent photo/Steve James

With almost all of the Eagles available against the Commodores on Tuesday, Corrigan substituted freely, and the cogs kept turning smoothly. 

“It’s a good group. They play well together,” Corrigan said. “We’ve got a lot of depth … When we’ve got the whole complement of what we’ve got, we’re definitely a strong side.”

VUHS Coach Dwight Irish’s team remains above .500 at 5-4-1, is undefeated against D-III and D-IV competition, and was coming off a 2-2 road tie at D-II Green Mountain Valley. All that shows progress after a one-win season a year ago. 

Still, Irish said a game like Tuesday’s can show the Commodores what they still must work on. He cited “coming out stronger,” marking more carefully, moving the ball more quickly, and communicating more effectively.

“In the second halves we’ve been playing better. Coming out and playing that way from the start is one thing we can learn from it,” he said. “You can always learn something from any game, but playing a better team opens your eyes to things to work on, for sure.”

On Atkins’s first goal, she cut into the box from her position on the left wing and finished low with her left foot inside the near post. The second goal came on a long, low serve to the far post to Underwood, who one-timed it home. 

Seventeen minutes in the Commodores got the ball into the Eagle box for the first time when midfielder Isabella Van Voorst served from the right side, but the Eagles cleared. 

The second time was a goal. A run by sophomore striker Ava Francis drew a foul about 25 yards out, and Stearns blasted a high shot home at 20:30. It would be one of two VUHS shots in the half. Eagle goalie Joanna Toy handled a Francis left-footed bid from the top of the box in the 34th minute. 

At 19:44, the Eagles made it 3-1. Atkins cut to the endline just left of the goal, and VUHS goalie Frances McAllister, expecting a shot, came out to meet her. Instead, Atkins slid the ball to Painter out front for a tap-in.

EAGLE GOALIE JOANNA Toy sprawls to deny a potential bid from VUHS forward Tryphene Miguel on Tuesday at Mount Abe; the ball rolled just out of Miguel’s reach.
Independent photo/Steve James

In the rest of the half defender Annie Dufault scored on a 26-yard direct kick, Underwood drilled home a loose ball from the 18, and Lauren Cousino broke into the box and converted with her left foot into the left side. 

McCallister, who made eight saves in each half, did well to deny Hazel Stoddard in the 37th minute. The Commodores had a chance to add a goal a minute late, but Kaelin Sullivan’s strong serve from the left side rolled inches away from the lunging right foot of forward Tryphene Miguel, who had much of the far side of the goal open.

The VUHS defense, keyed by Alaina LeBeau and Siobhan Potter in the middle, settled down in the second half. But Hazel Guillmette added a pair of goals for Mount Abe, the first on a rebound of a Piper Guillmette shot and the second in a scramble out front after an Underwood shot. 

The Eagle defense — Whitney Dykstra started in the middle with Dufault and Nell Harvey on the flanks — did not allow a second-half shot to reach either Toy or Rebecca Behounek, who replaced Toy midway through the half.

“Defensively we’re solid,” Corrigan said. “We’ve got a number of people who are playing very well in the backfield.”

He believes the Eagles, a regular visitor to the D-II final four even with a low seed in recent years, could make another deep playoff run.  

“I expect us to be right in the mix,” Corrigan said. 

EAGLE FORWARD LOUISA Painter shields the ball from Commodore defender Alaina LeBeau and looks to make a play at Mount Abe on Tuesday.
Independent photo/Steve James

From the VUHS perspective, Irish said the Commodores have to take results like Tuesday’s in stride and maintain a positive frame of mind. 

“The first thing is to try to keep the morale up. We knew these were going to be the hard games,” he said. “Keeping the spirits up will be No. 1. If that’s OK, then you can get to work.”

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