VERGENNES — In a hard-fought, if not necessarily artistic, high school boys’ lacrosse game on Tuesday, Mount Abraham snapped a third-quarter tie at Vergennes and held on for its first win of 2012, 9-7.
After VUHS sophomore attacker J.T. O’Brien knotted the score at 4-4 at 55 seconds after halftime, the Eagles went on a 4-1 run over the next seven minutes, including both of freshman middie Gus Catlin’s goals in the game, a goal and an assist from senior attacker Conor McDonough, and one of sophomore Travis Bachand’s team-high four goals.
The Commodores cut the lead to 8-7 with one goal from junior middie Cody Hutchins late in the third and one in the fourth quarter from junior attacker Joe Krayewsky, his fourth of the game, on a feed from junior middie Chris Dayton.
But the 1-3 Eagles iced their first win when Bachand shortly afterward converted a transition feed from senior middie Forest Wallace.
Mount Abe coach Tim McGowan was happy to see the Eagles break through, even if he thought they didn’t execute the fundamentals as well as they had in a tough-luck, 8-4 loss to Montpelier on Saturday. In that game, the Eagles outshot the Solons, but ran into a hot goalie and the goalposts in coming up short.
“It was a good fight here today. I will say Vergennes has improved, and I think ourselves we got fortunate on the outcome,” McGowan said. “I think we had a lot of missed balls and sloppy play. We’re a much better, more capable team than we showed today. I think it was evident on both sides we were down to a slugfest instead of a true finesse game. I think we just threw away a lot of opportunities, especially early in the game.”
Commodore coach Ed Cook saw his team fall to 1-2, with the losses by one goal at Milton and by two goals on Tuesday. VUHS has yet to field a full team. Two starters are academically ineligible until the end of the month, and on Tuesday senior defender and three-year starter Steven Sickles and starting junior middie Jordan Grant sat out with injuries. The Commodores’ transition game in particular suffered due to the absences.
“It’s growing pains,” Cook said. “I see flashes of great things, and then we can’t pick up a ground ball or our clears need a little work. It’s a young team that has improved 150 percent from last season, and they see it. And I think some of the frustration comes out because they know that they’re almost there. It’s the little things, practice intensity, realizing what’s going on on the field and being able to adapt from quarter to quarter, and putting together four quarters of lacrosse.”
Mount Abe took a 2-0 lead after the first period, during which each team managed to put only two shots on goal, for which the Eagle defense of seniors Nat Marsters and Alex Blodgett and sophomore Paul Sabourin and the VUHS backline of juniors Gary Caldwell and Ryan Crowningshield and senior J.J. LaFountain deserve credit.
But the Eagles converted both, by sophomore middie Ira Fischer and McDonough, while Eagle junior goalie Edgar Sherman made two of his 10 saves in the period.
In the second quarter, Bachand made it 3-0 before VUHS got on the board at 9:29, when Crowningshield picked up a ground ball and raced the length of the field to set up Krayewsky. VUHS began to carry play, but Bachand made it 4-1 at 5:21 with an assist from Fischer.
Then the VUHS edge in play produced results, with Krayewsky scoring in transition from sophomore middie Justin Strona, and sophomore attacker Tucker Babcock converting after picking up a ground ball in front of Sherman.
After Mount Abe’s strong third quarter, the Eagles also came out firing in the fourth, and VUHS senior goalie Jake Thompson answered the call. Thompson kept his team in the game by making seven of his 12 saves in the period, including five in the opening four minutes.
But ultimately the Eagle pressure paid off, as they played more like McGowan believes they can. In all, they outshot VUHS, 37-30.
“Honestly, we’ve improved dramatically,” he said. “We’re a young team. We’re moving the ball effectively, we’re still winning the ground ball battles, and our faceoffs have improved. So on the whole, I think we’ve improved from where we were in the beginning of the season.”
On the other side, Cook also sees improvement, and looks forward to fielding his full roster.
“I’m hoping in two or three weeks when all those guys come back all the young guys have got a lot of experience and it’s going to carry us through to the heart of our schedule,” he said. “I know that once we get those guys back we can compete with the big boys.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.