BRISTOL — The No. 4 Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ soccer team fired on all cylinders — except maybe one — on Tuesday and dispatched visiting No. 13 Otter Valley, 4-1.
The 7-4-4 Eagles possessed the ball constantly, passed efficiently and creatively, won most 50-50 balls, parried the 4-11 Otters effectively when they mounted an attack, and earned a 52-3 advantage in shots at goal.
Coach Mike Corey was pleased with his team’s play, except that only 19 of those 52 shots challenged OV senior goalie Grant Robin, whose 15 saves included a couple gems.
“We played well. We moved the ball. We obviously created a ton of chances,” Corey said. “We just didn’t put them on frame enough.”
Senior Grayson Webb, who set up Mount Abe’s second goal and then put the game out of reach with two goals in the final 17:23, said the Eagles met their objective of taking control early.
“I think we started off with a lot of intensity,” Webb said. “We came out there and started playing our possession game, got a couple of early chances.”
OV coach Muffie Harvey agreed her Otters never got on track against the aggressive Eagles. She agreed Mount Abe played well, but that OV has competed better against other good teams.
“It’s a funny thing. People tell me it’s just high school sports. Some days they bring it, and some days they don’t. Today we were flat, unfortunately,” Harvey said. “My team can definitely play better than it played today. We knew this would be a good match. We’ve had some really good matches with Proctor and Woodstock, so they’ve come a long way. And I’m very proud of them, and they’re an awesome bunch of young men to work with.”
The Eagles quickly established a shot-every-two-minutes pace against the beleaguered OV back line of Beau Buxton in the middle and Thomas Roberts and Andy Levandowski on the flanks.
Before the Eagles broke through, middie Tommy Nelson shot high and hit the crossbar, and Robin stopped Alex McCormick twice and Webb once.
With 18 minutes gone, Mount Abe broke the ice. McCormick controlled on the right side and served well to cutting central middie Cale Thygesen at the far corner. Robin moved quickly to get a hand on Thygesen’s one-timer, but it deflected in.
Nine minutes later, McCormick and Webb worked a give-and-go at the top of the box that sprung McCormick in alone on Robin, and McCormick roofed a shot home from close range.
Finally, the Otters developed some pressure on the Eagle back line. Goalie Truman Daniel (two saves) came out to snare a direct kick by senior middie Matt Dier, and defender Sam Weaver broke up a Dier run at the top of the box.
With six minutes left, hustling OV middie Colton Benoit was shaken up, and officials stopped play and called for a drop ball in the Eagle end.
The Eagles thought they should just give the ball back to the Otters, and waited too long to start playing again. By the time they did, it was too late: OV senior striker Dominic Simpson had the ball in the middle of the field and launched a 22-yard bomb — OV’s only shot of the half — that found the upper right corner to make it 2-1 at 5:45.
The first-half shots finished 22-1, Mount Abe. The Eagles added a 30-2 edge in the final 40 minutes. Nelson hit the bar again, and Robin denied Webb from point-blank on a corner kick.
“I’ve got an amazing goalie,” Harvey said. “He definitely withstood a lot of pressure today.”
But that pressure paid off at 17:23. Webb controlled a ball at the 18 and somehow walked through three defenders before finishing low to the right side to make it 3-1.
OV’s best chances came when Eagle defender Houston Cote picked off a Jeff Corbett pass intended for Simpson, and in the 36th minute, when Simpson drilled a shot from the 18 that Daniel blocked, but couldn’t control. The Eagle defense then beat OV middie Chris Cimonette to the rebound.
Webb then padded the lead in the final minute, beating a lone defender to a long, high ball sent into the box by Thygesen and beating Robin one-on-one.
The Otters will lose five senior starters — Robin, Dier, Cimonette, Simpson and middie Kevin Lefebvre — but Harvey is optimistic the team will continue to grow.
“They are very team-oriented. There’s great camaraderie among them. They’ve come a long way,” she said. “Obviously there’s a long way to go, but they’re willing and they’re very coachable.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles will host either No. 5 Green Mountain or No. 12 Woodstock on Saturday at 10 a.m. Corey expects the Gumbies, with whom the Eagles split two 1-0 games.
And he is optimistic about his team’s chances in D-II.
“I think every game this year we’ve been there, and I would anticipate that would be the case going forward,” Corey said. “We’re going to face some really good teams ... so there will be some battles. The consensus, really, among the coaches is that in Division II it’s anybody’s year.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]