VERGENNES — Unfortunately for visiting Mount Abraham, the Vergennes Union High School boys’ lacrosse team chose Saturday to play its best game of the season — and probably of the past four years.
The Commodores bolted to a 4-0 first quarter lead and survived a second-quarter Eagle surge on the way to a 13-7 victory that moved VUHS to 4-6.
Those four wins exceed the VUHS program’s combined total from the past three seasons, and Saturday’s victory over the Eagles was the Commodores’ first in that span. It was also the Commodores’ first over a team with more than one win in 2013.
In all, said VUHS senior Ryan Crowningshield, part of a strong defensive effort vs. Mount Abe, the result meant a lot to the Commodores.
“It’s just so nice to get a win against a better team,” Crowningshield said. “And we’re real rivals with Mount Abe. It’s just great for our school. This is awesome. It makes us all want to play lacrosse.”
Coach Ed Cook said he was as pleased with the Commodores’ effort and execution as he was with the result.
“These guys came ready to play today, and they were focused from start to finish,” Cook said.
Eagle coach Tim McGowan saw his team drop to 3-8. He said the game was hard-fought, but that the Eagles did not quite match the Commodores’ ball movement or determination.
“I commend my guys for playing hard on a hot day, and we did the best we could. But we definitely did not win the ground balls and didn’t have a lot of good passing,” McGowan said.
The Eagles’ relative inexperience might have been a factor, he said, but ultimately the Commodores simply did more.
“(Vergennes’) maturity I think kind of showed today,” McGowan said. “I give Vergennes great credit. They played very well today. They deserved the win.”
The Commodores took a 4-0 lead in the opening period even though the Eagles won four out of five draws. Mount Abe struggled to get any high-percentage looks at VUHS goalie Erik Averill, who made 21 saves. Among those were a few challenging stops, but many were also from sharp angles or long range as the VUHS back line of Crowningshield, Steve Van Wyck and Hunter Mayshak typically kept the Eagles on the perimeter.
“It was just playing the man and getting our sticks on their hands, don’t let them get by, give them space, don’t get dragged out to the corners so they can beat us, because they are a fast team,” Crowningshield said.
And the VUHS middies were generally effective moving the ball into the attack, and VUHS began to find openings in the Eagle defense with good ball movement — all four first-quarter goals were assisted, as were nine of 13 overall.
VUHS took the lead with a man-up goal at 5:54, when attacker Tyler Crowningshield set up Justin Strona out in front. At 4:20, attacker Tucker Babcock fed cutting middie Cody Hutchins to make it 2-0. At 2:24 the Commodores scored in transition, with middie Jordan Grant netting a feed from attacker Joe Krayewsky. In the final minute, Grant scooped a ground ball at midfield and set up Babcock to make it 4-0.
The Eagles answered by scoring three goals in the first 2:59 of the second period. At 11:13 middie Gus Catlin cut into a seam in the VUHS defense and whipped home a feed from attacker Travis Bachand; at 10:14 Wallace picked up a ground ball and swept in from the right side; and Bachand curled from behind and converted at 9:01 to make it 4-3.
The Eagles got the ball back and were looking to tie the score, but VUHS long-stick middie Erik Eisenhower picked off a pass and triggered a Commodore fast break that ended with Strona converting a long pass from Krayewsky at 8:06.
That play seemed to swing the momentum back the Commodores’ way, although the score stayed at 5-3 thanks to some strong work from Eagle freshman goalie Patrick Brown in the period. Brown was credited with only eight saves, but faced much tougher shots than Averill and made outstanding stops in the second period, including coming out of his net to stone Babcock and Krayewsky.
“He actually kept this game closer than what it could have been,” McGowan said.
The Commodores then took control with a 6-0 third period to lead, 11-3, after three. Isaac Bigelow got the ball rolling with a solo run from midfield at 11:07. After Averill snuffed Bachand on another curl move, Babcock scored in transition from Tyler Crowningshield, and it was 7-3 at 10-01.
VUHS took advantage of an Eagle penalty to make it 8-3 at 8:02, with Hutchins netting a Babcock helper from behind the net. Casey, from long range; Krayewsky, from Tyler Crowningshield; and Bigelow on another solo effort tacked on goals in the quarter.
The Eagles broke up the 7-0 VUHS run early in the fourth when middie Ira Fisher netted a Bachand feed. Down the stretch for VUHS, Grant and Krayewsky (from Strona) added goals for VUHS. Nick Turner (from Fisher) scored one for Mount Abe, and Wallace scored the final two goals of the game, one set up by Lucas Richter.
Cook said his team played with poise, citing avoiding penalties and sticking with the defensive game plan.
“We weren’t in the box today, which was huge. That’s kind of been our downfall against the better teams. We played smart. Our defense was phenomenal today,” he said.
Milton, another team in the building process visits VUHS on Tuesday. The Yellowjackets won the first time, 13-5, but VUHS was without Averill and Krayewsky was injured.
Ryan Crowningshield said Saturday’s result will also give the Commodores a lift.
“We’re ready for Milton now. This team was right there with us in the standings, and Milton is too, so this is good for us,” he said.
Cook said if the Commodores can duplicate their Saturday effort he believes they can play with Milton. He is also looking forward to the postseason after Saturday.
“This is a good way to end our season, for the seniors to have some confidence going into the last four games and do something in the playoffs. For the first time we’re not at the bottom of the pack, we’re somewhere in the middle,” Cook said. “We could potentially do something in the playoffs if we get a good draw.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]