VERGENNES — In a rivalry game between two local highs school girls’ soccer teams off to good starts, visiting Mount Abraham rode solid midfield play to a 3-1 win at Vergennes on Friday.
The Eagle midfielders not only consistently won the battles for the ball, but also set up their forwards to attack the VUHS goal, resulting in a 25-4 advantage in shots at net.
Senior striker and tri-captain Meghan Livingston, who drilled home the first Mount Abe goal in the fourth minute, said the Eagles also remembered the two losses the Commodores handed them a year ago.
“We were all working very hard. Vergennes is always a very mental, emotional game, and last year we lost twice to them,” Livingston said. “We’ve all been working toward the same goals, and our motto is being tenacious, and our covenant is that we sweat together, we stick together. This game, I think it showed today. We were all very tenacious.”
Eagle Coach Dustin Corrigan said the play of his midfielders — senior M.K. Charnley, junior Amy Nault and sophomore Juniper Nardiello-Smith were especially effective, but several other Eagles also made impacts — made the difference for Mount Abe, which improved to 4-2.
“I was pleased with, definitely, the effort, and the way our girls were able to be first to the ball and get it down to the ground and possess it and put ball after ball into the goalmouth,” Corrigan said. “We were able to play most of the game in their end.”
Co-coach Dwight Irish’s young Commodores were coming off big wins over Rice and Montpelier, but dropped to 3-2 with the setback. He saw some things to like on Friday, but said the Eagles’ ball-winning prevented his team from developing offensive rhythm.
“Parts of it I felt were OK … To me the difference was their willingness to get to the ball,” Irish said, adding, “We held our own and did all right, but … they were outworking us to the ball, and that was the bottom line.”
The Eagles attacked early, earning two quick corner kicks. The pressure paid off when freshman striker Ernesta McIntosh made a run down the left side and served to Livingston just inside the top of the box. Livingston wheeled, shielded the ball from a defender and fired a left-foot shot into the right side of the goal at 36:20.
Other than that, the Vergennes defenders — senior Phoebe Plank and sophomore Kareena Vorsteveld stayed on the field and seniors Samara Sausville and Keyannah Smith, junior Tia Hunt and freshman Megan Rooney rotated in — held fast in the first half.
“We had good moments working the ball, and defensively … we did well enough keeping their forwards in front of us,” Irish said.
Junior goalie K.C. Ambrose had a strong game also, making 11 saves for the Commodores and repeatedly coming off the line to break up plays.
“K.C. did a good job,” Irish said. “We have a keeper at keeper.”
At the other end, the Eagle defense of seniors Harlie Vincent and Addie Campbell in the middle and senior Brittany Atkins and sophomore Jesse McKean on the flanks stepped up to support the Eagle midfield and contained the runs made by the VUHS forwards, senior Ruby Dombek and sophomore Tea Keifer. Eagle sophomore goalie Zoe Cassels-Brown made two saves, both in the second half.
The scoring did pick up after the break, but not before Ambrose came out to deny Eagle senior Quinn Gervia on a nice ball, and Vorsteveld stopped Livingston on a feed from Nault.
But at 30:32 Nault sent a long through ball down the middle to McIntosh, who won the battle with a defender and from about the penalty stripe left-footed the ball inside the right post.
Almost before the Mount Abe cheers died down it was 2-1. Dombek sent Keifer into the right side of the Eagle box, and Keifer’s hard shot went into the upper left corner at 30:11.
The Eagles refused to surrender momentum, however, and despite some good work by Ambrose they made it 3-1 at 17:22. Charnley took a corner kick from the left side, and it deflected in off a defender.
Down the stretch, Ambrose saved an Ashlie Fay penalty kick. The Eagles also made two good defensive plays as the Commodores kept plugging: Atkins came over to break up a nice feed to Hunt by Dombek, and as time wound down two defenders denied Keifer on another Dombek setup.
Irish remains optimistic despite the setback. After all, the Commodores have a winning record against a tough schedule.
“We’re young and getting better,” Irish said. “Hopefully, at playoff time it will all come together.”
The Eagles have also taken on a challenging slate: Their only losses have been to D-I foes U-32 and Champlain Valley, and they have defeated Division II’s No. 2 team, Milton, and dealt defending D-III champion Fairfax its only loss.
That competition has helped the Eagles, Livingston said.
“They’ve definitely prepared us, especially for this match, because it’s always aggressive and you always have to fight for the 50-50s,” Livingston said.
The Eagles are excited about their prospects, she said.
“I think we look really strong this year,” Livingston said. “We have some really good speed, and our midfield is really strong.”
Corrigan is also optimistic.
“We’ve been off to a good start. We’ve played a lot of the tough teams,” Corrigan said. “We feel like we can compete with anybody. That gives the girls a lot of confidence going forward going into the rest of the league and the playoffs.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]