BRISTOL — In a high school boys’ soccer game on Friday in which both teams had opportunities, host Mount Abraham had the slightly better chances and took fuller advantage of them than Vergennes, and the result was a 3-0 Eagle victory in this fall’s third meeting of the two teams.
The Eagles snapped a three-game skid and improved to 3-4-1. On Friday they had players back who missed games due to disciplinary issues but were missing three starters due to injury,
Mount Abe coach Mike Corey was happy to see his team begin to take control late in the first half and then add a pair of second-half goals.
“Over the course of the game, our play improved, and hopefully we can build on it,” Corey said.
The Eagles out-shot the Commodores, 17-12, and held a 7-5 edge in corner kicks, but VUHS (2-4-2, including an 0-2-1 record vs. Mt. Abe) knocked on the door, especially in the opening minutes and the late going.
VUHS coach Kevin Hayes saw his team — which was missing two injured starters — shut out for the third straight game. But he said Friday’s play was more even than the final score indicated.
“It felt like a lot closer than that. We created some chances. It was good for the team to finally get some chances created,” Hayes said.
Eagle goalie John Lower (six saves) had to make a challenging stop on VUHS midfielder Colin Babcock in the opening minutes, and overall VUHS earned more territory early on. Zach Ouellette shot wide, and sweeper Devin Hayes came up on a corner kick and also fired wide.
But the Eagles began to carve space in the VUHS box, and VUHS goalie Steven Paquette had to make back-to-back stops on Eagle striker Alex McCormick.
At about the 20-minute mark, the Eagles began to assert themselves at midfield, with Phil McCormick, Will Meyer and Tommy Nelson winning balls and setting up runs.
At 14:05, the Eagles took the lead. Freshman Ira Fisher challenged for a ball in the VUHS box; it popped back to Alex McCormick on the 18, and he drilled a left-foot shot into the left side of the net.
VUHS had a fine chance in the 36th minute, when midfielder Julian Hattler deflected left wing Jacob Firlik’s cross just high over the right post. But thanks to the Eagles’ surge, the first-half shots ended in their favor, 9-5.
The Commodores opened the second half with pressure, but few truly dangerous chances, thanks in part to defensive plays by Meyer, Nelson and center back Houston Cote. At the other end, backs Max Flynn and Cody Quattrocci made plays to defuse Eagle threats.
The Eagles stretched their lead at 23:43 on a corner kick. Phil McCormick drove it low from the left side, and it deflected off a defender and popped into the air in front of the goal. Meyer used his height to head it home from close range.
About five minutes later, Alex McCormick led brother Phil McCormick into the right side of the box, and he drilled the ball inside the left post to make it 3-0.
Paquette soon afterward made his best save, diving to his left to deflect a dangerous shot by Eagle Grayson Webb wide. Corey said the Eagles can be dangerous if they remember to move off the ball, as they did on Friday.
“We have some players who can score goals ... It’s hard for them to contain Alex and Grayson and Phil and Andy (Dubenetsky),” Corey said.
Corey said his defense — Cote and Conor McDonough in the middle and Will Smith and Ben Smith on the flanks — also played better on Friday, even though standout sweeper Zach Ellison sat out with an injury.
Still, the Commodores carved out some room in the late going, especially after Coach Hayes moved Devin Hayes to striker. In their most threatening sequence, Hayes sent Timmy Johnson into the right side of the box, and Lower did well to knock Johnson’s hard shot wide right. Johnson retrieved the ball and fed Hayes back on the other side. Hayes shot at the upper left corner, but Lower recovered to deflect the ball high and wide.
Coach Hayes said he was happy the Commodores are battling to the end even in their losses.
“They guys are not discouraged. They’re encouraged by their season so far,” Hayes said. “That’s the great thing about them. No matter what the score, they keep playing.”
He also was happy with his defense —Hayes and Quattrocci in the middle and Flynn and Ricky Karzmarczyk on the flanks — with the exception of a couple mistakes that Hayes credited the Eagles for putting in the back of the net.
“The guys did a good job in the back, I thought. There were a couple of unfortunate instances back there, but other than that it didn’t look like a 3-0 game,” Hayes said.
In all, Hayes sees his team, which starts just two seniors, Firlik and Karzmarczyk, as making strides.
“They’re so young, but I feel like they’re coming together,” he said. “They’re in a much better spot than they were last year all the way through.”
Meanwhile, Corey is hopeful for more immediate growth from his more experienced team.
I think the picture is reasonably bright,” he said, “and hopefully as the season progresses and we all get healthy we’ll have some big wins.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.