BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ lacrosse team dominated most of Saturday’s second half, but had to hold on at the end to earn a 9-8 home win over Vergennes.
The Eagles trailed at the break, 5-4, but earned an 11-1 edge in shots on goal in the third period to take an 8-5 lead into the fourth. VUHS goalie Erik Averill made seven of his 21 saves in the quarter to keep his team close.
Joe Krayewsky’s third goal of the game made it 8-6 early in the fourth, but an Eagle defense led by Nat Marsters kept VUHS away from goalie Edgar Sherman (10 saves) for much of the quarter.
The Commodores also committed two penalties. After the second, Eagle senior attacker Conor McDonough fired home his fifth goal of the game to make it 9-6 with 2:50 to go, an apparently safe advantage.
VUHS middie Geoffrey Grant won the draw, and sophomore J.T. O’Brien soon picked up a ground ball and converted from close range to make it 9-7 at 2:07.
With 37 seconds to go, the Eagles committed a penalty. With time running down, the ball went to Krayewsky 40 feet out, and he sidearmed a bullet in at 0:14: 9-8.
Then, the Eagles were called for an infraction on the draw.
Grant steamed down the middle and shot, but his lefty bid sailed wide out of bounds. Still, four seconds remained. Attacker Brad Russett fed Grant cutting in from the right side, but Eagle senior middie John Lower checked his stick, and the comeback bid ended.
In the first quarter, VUHS defender Ryan Crowningshield’s coast-to-coast goal gave VUHS the lead, but solo efforts by middie Whit Lower and McDonough put the Eagles on top. Then O’Brien got a hard bouncer to spin in off Sherman, and Krayewsky converted a feed from middie Cody Hutchins to put VUHS up, 3-2, after one period.
VUHS took a 4-2 lead early in the second when Grant set up attacker Tucker Babcock. Two McDonough strikes tied the game — all that got past Averill in a five-save period as the Eagles began to assert themselves — before Krayewsky tossed in a 35-footer at 2:32 to make it 5-4 at the break.
The Eagles took charge in the third, picking up their intensity, winning ground balls and refusing to let VUHS move up the field. After McDonough knotted the score at 5-5 at 8:50, Whit Lower and Ira Fischer each bounced shots home to make it 7-5. Late in the period, John Lower set up Travis Bachand’s man-up goal after Averill made five straight saves, but the Eagles kept repossessing the ball.
“I think we won the ground-ball battle,” said Eagle coach Tim McGowan, adding, “I think traditionally our team has been a second-half team ... I think our team wanted to have it, and made that choice to make it happen.”
VUHS coach Ed Cook saw it the same way.
“It came down to little things. It came down to ground balls,” Cook said. “We didn’t pick up any ground balls in the third quarter, and they picked up a bunch. They had more possessions.”
Cook also thought the fact the Commodores had played the afternoon before was a disadvantage; the Eagles had not played since Wednesday. On Friday, visiting Burr & Burton topped VUHS, 10-3. Krayewsky scored twice, Grant scored once, O’Brien added an assist, and Averill stopped 13 shots.
The Eagles lost on Wednesday at Green Mountain, 14-7. Fischer scored three times, and John Lower, McDonough, Nick Turner and Mark Jipner added goals. Sherman (nine saves) and Jake Williams (two saves) shared time in goal.
On Saturday, McGowan said his 4-6 Eagles have lived up to expectations.
“We’re exactly where I thought we’d be at this point in the season,” McGowan said. “We face a couple good games ahead of us, and I think we’ll improve on where we are now in those.”
Cook said his 2-8 Commodores, coming off a winless season, are improved and will only get better. He praised the work of Crowningshield, Gary Caldwell and J.J. Lafountain on defense and the Commodores’ determination.
“We’re so much better than we were last year,” he said. “To be in games like this and to be able to have the wherewithal to be able to come two goals down with 40 seconds left and ... to try to tie it up is something we couldn’t have done last year. So we’re right there. We’re right on the doorstep.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]