BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ soccer team put the wraps on the Eagles’ best season in years on Friday, but it wasn’t easy.
The Eagles needed overtime to defeat stubborn visiting Middlebury, 1-0, on a long-range bomb by junior Evy Jacobs; finish their regular season at 9-3-2; and, critically, nail down the No. 4 seed for the Division II playoffs — a loss would have dropped them to No. 5.
But, as Coach Dustin Corrigan noted, the Eagles have shown a knack for winning close games all season: Friday’s victory was their sixth by one goal and third in overtime this fall.
“We find a way to get it done when the game’s on the line,” Corrigan said. “We find a way to get the result.”
Corrigan believes that ability to come through when it counts — including an equally important 1-0 win over D-I Rice on Wednesday — could serve the Eagles well in the playoffs.
“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “We’ve shown we can play with the best of them.”
The improved Tigers finished at 4-8-2, tying the program’s high-water mark for wins in the past two decades. Friday was the third straight game junior goalie Sydney Reigle and the Tiger defense — seniors Hannah Kraus and Ruby Barnard-Mayers, junior Nora McLaughlin, and sophomores Sophia Abdul-Sater and Kate Dapolito — did not allow a goal in regulation.
“They were stellar for the whole game,” said MUHS coach Wendy Leeds. “It’s too bad that defensive error kind of cost us the game. But I’m so proud of the way they played all season.”
The winning goal came two minutes into overtime. Reigle elected to throw the ball short to her right side, and the Eagles disrupted the clearance attempt and served back into the middle to the 18. Eagle sophomore middie Meghan Livingston and a defender battled for the ball, and it popped to Jacobs, alone several yards outside of the box. Jacobs ripped a one-timer just inside the left post; Reigle, whose 10 saves included a few gems, had no chance.
Much of the game was contested at midfield, where the Eagles’ Kat Camara, Brooke Lossman and Casey Ogden and the Tigers’ Lydia Allen and Britta Clark showed well.
But when the ball went forward, the Tigers had little success penetrating the Eagle back line of sophomores Addy Campbell and Harlie Vincent in the middle and senior Megan Ogden on one flank and junior Jessie Martin on the other. Sophomore goalie Ashlie Fay had a relatively easy four-save day.
Corrigan said he normally pairs both Ogdens on the flanks, but wanted Casey Ogden in the midfield against the Tigers and has no hesitation putting Martin into the lineup. The Eagles, like the Tigers, have been stingy this fall, with four shutouts and six games with just one goal against.
“Our two sophomore center backs have both just been awesome,” Corrigan said. “Both Ogden twins, they’re really midfielders. With them as outside backs it gives us some poise back there and ability to move forward.”
At the other end, Jacobs and Eagle senior striker Nicole Norland created pressure, and in the first half Lossman forced Reigle to make a point-blank stop at the right post. In the second half, the Eagles’ best chance came when Norland worked her way in behind the Tiger backs, and Reigle somehow pushed her low shot wide to the right.
The Tigers may face an uphill battle in this week’s D-I playoffs, but Leeds said she expects the Tigers’ work ethic and unity will inevitably result in a more consistent attack.
“I feel like we’re continuing to build,” she said. “They’re about as hard-working and positive as you could ever ask for in a group. They do whatever’s asked and it’s starting to pay off. We’ll miss some of those seniors who are backs who are leaving next year, but we have great people coming in, too.”
Corrigan said unity will also help the Eagles, who are focused more on the short-term — the playoffs that will begin with one home game on Tuesday or Wednesday, and with any luck another this coming weekend.
“The key is just to continue to stick together and sweat together and play as a team,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.