BRISTOL — In the first half of Saturday’s girls’ soccer game at Mount Abraham Union High School, Eagle sophomore Evy Jacobs ripped a 30-yard shot at the BFA-Fairfax goal. It easily beat the Bullet goalie, but a strong wind carried it just high enough to bang off the crossbar.
With 3:10 to go and the score 1-1, Bullet sophomore middie Morgan Young drilled a 30-yard shot at the same end. But the wind had died down, and her blast nestled in just under the framework and into the goal.
And that proved to be the difference in the season opener for both teams, as the Bullets edged the Eagles, 2-1. Fairfax had a 16-10 edge in shots at goal and a 9-6 advantage in shots on goal, but the teams’ possession time was even and the Eagles created good scoring chances.
And because a year ago the talented Bullets had defeated the Eagles, 3-0, second-year Mount Abe coach Dustin Corrigan saw plenty to like.
“Sometimes you get beat on the scoreboard, but I don’t necessarily feel the match went that way,” Corrigan said. “I don’t think the tide was in favor of one side or the other.”
On offense, senior Emily Sundstrom’s second-half goal knotted the score, with an assist to junior striker Jena Whitaker. Whitaker had a number of good looks at goal, junior midfielder Brooke Lossman and senior middie Rachael Zeno each served dangerous balls into the box, junior Nicole Norland showed skill and poise at midfield and forward, and Jacobs was a relentless ball-winner and an offensive threat. All the Eagles did well winning 50-50 balls.
“Offensively, we definitely have some players that can impose some problems on the opposition, and they showed that today,” Corrigan said. “We had a lot of chances to score. We didn’t capitalize, but we did make the chances. We’ll just keep working at practice to make sure we capitalize on them in the future.”
The Eagles graduated last year’s entire starting defense, but despite a breakdown on the Bullets’ first goal, Mount Abe for the most part looked solid in the back. Sophomore sweeper Jesse Martin and junior left back Megan Ogden showed well, junior stopper Katrina Camara came on strong in the second half, and juniors Jenna Thompson and Sarah Bevet each had good moments at left back.
“We’ve re-taught a lot of girls how to play a new position in the back, and several players did a pretty good job in there today,” Corrigan said.
Senior goalie Gwen Merrill made three saves and broke up several plays before leaving with an injury midway through the second half. Junior Emily Gibson made three saves in relief.
The Eagles dominated possession in the opening minutes as Jacobs took charge at midfield, but the Bullets created the first two chances and scored on the second. Twice, they served from the right side and players beat a defender to the cross. Young fired the first wide, but in the 14th minute Ashley Benard one-timed home the second cross, from Mikayla Forsey.
The Eagles’ first chance came when Ogden lofted a direct kick into the box a minute later, forcing the Bullets to clear from a scramble. Bevet sent the ball right back in, but the Bullets again managed to hold on.
In the 21st minute, Jacobs pounded her long-rang bomb off the bar. Whitaker pounced on the rebound, but fired just high.
Fairfax came on strong in the first eight minutes of the second half, but Merrill stopped the only one of their six-shot flurry that went on net.
The Eagles equalized at 31:30. Jacobs won a ball at midfield and fed Whitaker at the top left of the box. Whitaker sent a ball across toward the right post, and it made it through the defense for the hustling Sundstrom to tap it into the corner.
Both teams threatened shortly afterward. Ogden made a defensive play with Merrill out of goal trying to win a ball in the 12th minute, and a minute later Whitaker shot just high on a Jacobs feed.
In the 35th minute, Jacobs shot wide on a set-up from Whitaker, and a minute later Fairfax had the lead. Thompson made a good defensive play, but her clear deflected — luckily, for Fairfax — to Young. Young’s high shot gave Gibson no chance.
Norland managed one more shot on a feed from Lossman, but the Bullets held on.
Corrigan was happy with the Eagles’ effort against a talented team, and he believes similar efforts in the future will produce positive results.
“I’m feeling more and more optimistic. I knew this (Fairfax) was a good team,” he said. “We were certainly competitive ... It’s encouraging.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.