By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — In a hard-fought high school boys’ lacrosse game on Saturday, host Vergennes took a 7-2 halftime lead and held on to defeat 9-6 Otter Valley, 9-6.
The Commodores prevailed despite missing head coach Rory Cartwright, who injured himself at work, and three starters who sat out for a minor violation of school rules.
They are now 6-2, a surprising record after 10 seniors graduated and starting goalie Seth Stone was lost to an early-season injury. Senior Silas Larson (six goals, two assists vs. OV) said the Commodores have balance and chemistry.
“We play good team D, and we’re pretty well-rounded. We’ve got a lot of kids who can score. And we move the ball well,” Larson said. “And we’re just a tight-knit group.”
Assistant coach Tim Hodson said the Commodores, knowing they have a small roster, have also worked hard to get in shape.
“We got the kids to believe that it’s going to pay off in the fourth quarter. They were looking at us like we were crazy until the first game, and then they saw how much better off they were than the other team,” he said. “And they’ve been believers ever since.”
Meanwhile, Coach Jim Hill’s 3-6 Otters were coming off a Thursday win vs. Stratton, and with Saturday’s better second half, he sees progress.
“The effort was there. The kids definitely stepped up to the challenge,” Hill said. “They’re getting better each game.”
Hill credited VUHS, and noted his team was missing key defender Parker Howland, who should return from an injury this week.
“I’ve got to tip my hat to Vergennes. They had a nice game. I guess they were down a couple guys today, but they fought through that adversity,” Hill said. “But my kids ... played their hearts out ... and we were also a man down today, one of our captains and leaders.”
OV struck 1:03 into the game, when attacker Josh McDonough finished a fast break on a feed from middie Matt Miller. VUHS equalized at 8:43, when middie Bobby Worley converted a Larson assist.
OV goalie Zach Jepson (16 stops) kept it close early on, in one sequence making three stops, including a kick save on Larson. At 5:34, Larson put VUHS on top from long range, but Pierce Thurston (three goals) answered at 4:47, running in from the right side to beat VUHS goalie Tim Glassberg (15 saves). VUHS made it 3-2 at 2:37, when Larson ran in to set up middie Joe Russett’s 25-footer.
In the second quarter, VUHS won most of the ground balls, and OV’s turnover troubles continued. VUHS took advantage with four goals, starting at 10:29, when Mitchell Goyette converted Morgan Stinchfield’s cross-crease pass.
VUHS made it 5-2 at 4:54. Jepson stopped Russett, but Ethan Baldwin picked up the rebound and fed Larson out front. Larson dodged in at 4:03 to make it 6-2, and 0:09 fired home a 40-footer.
The Otters showed renewed determination after the break, firing four unanswered shots. Glassberg made a point-blank save on Andrew Piper on the third, but Thurston picked up a loose ball and tossed in a 20-footer at 9:30.
Jepson then made a doorstep stop on Baldwin, and at 6:13 Piper converted an end-to-end play: Jepson won a ground ball, fed Miller at midfield, Miller worked the ball to Jessey Chapin, and Chapin assisted Piper to make it 7-4.
Three penalties slowed OV, and Larson netted a man-up goal from Goyette at 2:35 to make it 8-4. Still, the Otters kept coming, and, after a ground-ball battle, at 0:51 Miller made it 8-5 entering the fourth.
OV pressured early in the fourth, but took another penalty, and Larson added another man-up goal at 8:54.
“Penalties definitely hurt us today,” Hill said.
At 7:36, Thurston struck again, assisted by middie Ryan Owen. But from there, Glassberg and VUHS defenders Zach Castillo, Justin Lalumiere, Trevor Sampson and Aaron Desabrais held firm.
Glassberg, an attacker who took over in net when Stone injured his hand, made key saves on Zakk Williams, Thurston and Miller down the stretch.
Hodson said the Commodores appreciate what Glassberg has done.
“He really has tried to improve himself,” Hodson said. “If that’s where he has to be, he’s going to be as good a goalie as he can be.”
Hodson said VUHS has exceeded expectations for several reasons, including last year’s introduction of a JV program and conditioning, but he agrees with Larson that chemistry has played a major role. In part, he said, that chemistry has grown because the team’s numbers are low.
“We’ve got kids that have stepped up at the right time, and I think being a small team has helped that,” Hodson said.
Larson said the Commodores will continue to aim high.
“I’ve got high expectations. I think we’re looking pretty good,” Larson said.
The Otters also on Saturday got strong efforts from their defenders — Pete Bautista, Jacob Gearwar and John Chestna.
Hill now hopes that the improvement he sees will translate into results.
“We’re getting better and better,” Hill said. “We’ve just got to put a few wins together.”