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Tiger goalie leads Independent all-star boys' soccer squad

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Posted on November 9, 2017 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



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MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School senior Santiago Fernandez is the 2017 Addison Independent Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year. Independent file photo/Trent Campbell

ADDISON COUNTY — Although no local high school boys’ soccer teams earned trophies this fall, their efforts can all be fairly rated a success. All four finished at .500 or better; three, Middlebury, Mount Abraham and Vergennes, won playoff games; and the fourth, Otter Valley, posted the program’s best record in decades.

But there is no debate on the best of the bunch: Coach Reeves Livesay’s MUHS squad finished 10-2-3 and earned the No. 5 seed in Division I.

The Tigers’ built their success with many tools, but strong defense and goaltending provided the foundation: They allowed eight goals in 15 games. Fittingly, senior goalie Santiago Fernandez leads the 2017 Addison Independent Boys’ Soccer All-Star team as the Independent Player of the Year. Three Tigers join Fernandez on the team.

Coach Mike Corey’s Mount Abe team enjoyed another competitive campaign, finishing 10-5 and earning D-II’s No. 5 seed. Three Eagles, all seniors, are honored here.

Coach Dick Williams’s OV group’s 8-6-1 record marked the program’s first winning season since at least the early 1990s. Two of the four seniors who led the way for OV this fall earned berths on the Independent team.

Coach Kevin Hayes’s 7-7-1 Commodores clinched a .500 season, the program’s best performance in a number of seasons, with a home D-III playoff win. A junior scorer and a versatile VUHS senior made the Independent all-star team.

Selections were made based on observation, consultation with the coaches and statistics, and they do not necessarily reflect league all-star teams. Because of the quality of play this fall Honorable Mention choices were added.

Congratulations to the following:

SANTIAGO FERNANDEZ, MUHS SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Posted seven shutouts in 14 outings and allowed just one goal in each other game … Stopped 54 shots in all, including a penalty kick to preserve a first-half scoreless tie vs. Mount Abe, for an .885 save percentage … Good distributor of the ball … Senior captain and vocal leader whose communication skills helped organize a defense with three new starters … Voted the Lake Division Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches.

Livesay’s Quotes: “Santi’s very strong laterally on the line … He covers the net very well, and he makes hard saves look pretty easy … This year he really helped us build out of the back and really bring our outside backs into the game and help us develop more of a possession build-up style of play … One of his greatest strengths he brought to the team this year was the leadership he brought … He’s definitely a vocal leader, keeping things organized, but I also thought he was very encouraging of his teammates.”

EBEN JACKSON, MUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: Offensive-minded midfielder who paced the Tiger attack with nine goals and five assists … Deadly shooter from long range with the ball at his feet or on direct kicks, and has the ballhandling skills to create his own shots … Has the touch on the ball and vision to create opportunities for his teammates … Smart, tough defender.

Livesay’s Quotes: “Eben has a really high soccer IQ, understands the game, sees the field really well … He’s very shifty on the dribble. He’s able to create space and get shots off … Eben’s a very strong tackler … He reads the play well and particularly if the opposing player makes a long touch he’s able to get in there and make the tackle. He just anticipates … More than any other player on our team I think he really helped dictate where the play went and the pace of the play.”

NICK CATLIN, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Quick, skilled and tireless midfielder who plays hard and well both ways … Tied for the Eagle team lead with five goals and assisted two scores … Scored the tying goal in the Eagles’ playoff victory, and then sank the winner when the game went to penalty kicks … Sees the field well on offense and defends relentlessly.

Corey’s Quotes: “Nick is the complete package … He’s very technical. He’s very good with the ball at his feet … His second-best attribute is his work rate … His defensive ability, his fierceness just to get in and dig and come up with balls, winning those confrontations, is another real strength … Without a doubt he was our best player … He is a great leader, both in terms of his communication on the field, being positive with his teammates, and just leading by example.”

CAMDEN SIMPSON, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Fast, strong and skilled striker who recorded seven goals and four assists despite being a focal point of opposing defenses … Excelled as a target player and distributor this season, using his touch to control the ball and then set up runs by teammates … Worked hard to disrupt opposing defenders’ attempts to move the ball up the field and forced many poor clears and passes.

Livesay’s Quotes: “Camden created a lot of offense for us, not just on the ball, but because he drew so much focus from opposing teams … He was able to create offense with his distribution and off-ball movement … He’s a tremendously dangerous player just with his combination of speed and strength … I asked a lot of Cam to start the defensive pressure … He’s someone who really helped create a positive, upbeat practice environment.”

TUCKER MOULTON, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes:Disruptive force at stopper for the Tigers … Quick, physical ball-winner who reads plays well and constantly broke up opposing advances at midfield … Often used his ball skills to carry into space and start counterattacks … Has a strong leg and took most long-range restarts for the Tigers.

Livesay’s Quotes: “Tucker is a tremendous competitor, and he has a great speed and he’s a strong tackler … He was our best player in the air, very strong heading the ball … He has a good feel how to move in the back. He anticipates well … He was very dangerous sometimes attacking out of the middle … He did very well feeding the ball into the box from the outside (on restarts), particularly anytime we got close to midfield.”

WILL SCHOENHUBER, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Smart, skilled central defender whose poise helped the Eagles post five shutouts and hold another five foes to one goal … Served as a key distributor from the back in the Eagle system … Good defender of balls served in the air into the box … Used strong communication and leadership skills to keep the Eagle defense organized … Scored once when stepping forward.

Corey’s Quotes: “Will is really a very technical player … He’s never seemed to get rattled … He really controlled the back line with direction … When we played balls through the back he was the pivot man … He played accurate balls. He played to the right people. He played us out of some pressure situations very successfully … Will was the rudder (as a captain). He kept the ship pointed in the right direction.”

ELI RICKNER, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Fast, physical athlete who is a superb one-on-one defender and a dangerous offensive player from his outside back position … Has the skills to make smart, accurate passes out of the back and to outmaneuver opponents one on one … Put pressure on opponents by attacking from the flank and scored a goal … Most vocal of the Eagles’ tri-captains.

Corey’s Quotes: “He’s really good with the ball at his feet … He was really good at playing from his flank position these really probing balls forward … Probably his greatest attribute was his ability to defend one versus one. He just didn’t get beat … In the attacking mode he was very problematic for other teams. He has great speed and can take people on and beat them … Not many high school teams have outside backs that can do what Eli does. He’s a complete player.”

EZEKIEL PALMER, VUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Skilled and productive striker and offensive midfielder who tied for the local high with 15 goals and picked up an assist … Could strike from long range, pick a corner under pressure or knock in a header … Scored consistently despite drawing extra attention from opponents … Has 29 goals after three years and could set a program record.

Hayes’s Quotes: “He was great individually. He could take on players … He’s got some skills and talent … He puts the ball in the net … We could break out the ball with speed and give it to Zeke and he’d do his thing … He must have had five or six game-winners … He really puts them under pressure in the back … It’s exciting, because when he gets the ball you know fun things can happen.”

MAXWELL WILLIAMS, OV SENIOR. Notes: Heady, skilled two-way central midfielder who helped key OV’s successful season with good passing and defense … Essentially quarterbacked the team, helping move the ball from the back as an outlet for the defenders and setting up runs by the forwards and flank middies … Scored five goals and tied for the local high with five assists.

Williams’s Quotes: “He sets the tone for our pressure defense, covering a ridiculous amount of territory in the game … He is our conduit in the middle. The boys play everything through him … My assistant coach labels him ‘very efficient,’ as his conversion rate on passing is excellent. We are able to move the ball around so well because of him … I have had him off the field this year, rarely, and it is immediately obvious that we are missing him.”

JOSH LETOURNEAU, OV SENIOR. Notes: Relentless striker who led all local players in points by scoring 15 goals and adding two assists … Quick, hardworking athlete with a nose for the ball and the goal … Tireless in his efforts to re-defend as well as attack and constantly pressured opposing defenders … Steadily improved his skills despite not being an offseason player, and had a hard shot.

Williams’s Quotes: “His determination is unrivaled amongst any team we play … My son Maxwell says, ‘He always ends up with the ball’ … Some teams man-marked him while others double- and triple-teamed him whenever he received the ball. He was not put off by this … Josh is the type of player who will take on the burden for his team … He is a really good leader. Josh never crumbles under the weight of pressure or facing a difficult opponent. He just plays harder.”

BEN KAYHART, VUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Skilled midfielder who played well at central defense this season when injuries struck VUHS … Worked hard to improve his skills during the season and offseason over past three years … Took many restarts, especially those that could create threats directly … Set up the go-ahead goal and one more score in the Commodores’ playoff win after being moved back to midfield.

Hayes’s Quotes: “We really needed him to solidify the back line and have a calm head there … When the squad was fully healthy I was able to move him to midfield … His maturity helped the team in the back … In other games I needed to push him up to help us get a score … He’s a talented player … He can distribute really well and play a well weighted ball, and he does see the field.”

HONORABLE MENTION: William Wright, Jackson Counter, Mount Abe; Ben Turner, Ben Crawford, MUHS; Sawyer Heath, Justin Tremblay, OV; Josias Salomao, VUHS. 

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