MIDDLEBURY — Despite plenty of effort in Thursday’s home game vs. traditional rival Woodstock, the Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team came up just short, 7-6.
The 10-4 Wasps scored the only two goals of the fourth quarter to erase an MUHS lead, while the Tigers committed a few too many mistakes and Wasp goalie Ben Orr made three of his seven saves.
“I’ve got to give credit to Woodstock,” MUHS coach Patrick Ivory said. “They executed a good team-style game. They had multiple guys putting up points for them. They had big saves from their goalie.”
The Tigers dropped to 6-9 heading into a winnable game on Friday at Burlington that was played after the early holiday deadline for this edition of the Independent.
Ivory said the Tigers were disappointed to lose their chance at finishing at .500 with Thursday’s tough loss, but their miscues vs. the Wasps might have been the result of trying too hard as individuals rather than relying on each other.
“The guys kind of fell into ... wanting to be the hero,” Ivory said. “We kind of lost the team aspect that we were starting to get together.”
Although the overall ground-ball stats favored MUHS, 28-26, Ivory said the Wasps got too many.
“Really, they outworked us on a lot of ground balls,” Ivory said. “They got the ones that mattered.”
There certainly were bright spots for MUHS. Senior goalie Garth Buck made 12 saves, some of them difficult stops, and senior defender Dillon Robinson led a strong back line that also included senior Wren Hobbs and freshmen Justin Stone and Austin Robinson at low defense and sophomores Sam Smith and Nick Felkl at long-stick middie.
“There were definitely some great individual performances, which was why it was such a close game,” Ivory said. “Garth really stepped it up. I thought Dillon Robinson played a great game, also. Really, the defense did pretty well on ball. They’ve got some pretty strong attackmen.”
Neither team led by more than a goal throughout. The first quarter ended at 1-1. The Wasps drew first blood when James Durand cashed in a Tiger turnover, but late in the quarter Tiger senior middie Derek Hathaway equalized in transition.
Both teams scored twice in the second quarter. Senior middie Sawyer McLaughlin dodged in and converted a left-hand shot to put MUHS up, 2-1, but Durand netted an Andrew Kimbell feed to make it 2-2. Tiger junior attacker Christian Higgins won a ground ball and scored to give MUHS the lead at 4:11, but Oliver Kaija responded 12 seconds later by bouncing a shot high into the net.
McLaughlin’s second goal of the game made it 4-3 at 7:30 of the third period.
After a slow start to the quarter, the teams erupted for two goals each in 3:04. Kimbell potted a behind-the-net feed from Hunter Schmell at 4:31, and 17 seconds later Schmell went solo to give Woodstock the lead at 5-4. At 3:18, Tiger senior middie Matt Bruch whipped home a feed from Higgins from behind the net, and at 1:27 junior middie Mitchell Clarke bounced home a 25-footer after taking a Higgins pass from the right side.
Early in the fourth, Orr denied Tiger sophomore Sam Usilton from point-blank in transition. At 9:46, Woodstock’s Kaija swept through the slot and scored, and at 6:17 teammate Schmell did the same to make it 7-6.
Shortly afterward, Orr denied Higgins. The Tigers earned a man advantage at 2:41, but Hathaway fired just wide. The Tigers had two more chances, but a long pass from Robinson to an open Higgins just missed connecting, and in the final minute Orr made a solid stop on sophomore middie Nathan Herrman to seal the victory for the Wasps.
Ivory was pleased the Tigers kept battling to the end.
“To the kids’ credit, from the very first game we played this season, they don’t give up. They give everything they have,” Ivory said. “Which is what makes it so tough to lose these close games. We put forth all this effort, and come up short because of a couple mental mistakes. It hurts that much worse.”
But Ivory said the Tigers have shown they can play with anyone, and that the postseason could be interesting.
“When we play our game, we can compete,” he said. “We’ll have to see what happens in the playoffs.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent