BRISTOL — Tuesday’s step one for the top-seeded Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ soccer team in the Division II playoffs was not a challenge.
Even though Coach Mike Corey went to his bench early and often and played his top players out of position for most of the game, the 14-1 Eagles coasted to a 9-0 victory over No. 16 Bellows Falls (4-8-3).
Senior midfielder Lucas Calzini came off the bench to record three goals and an assist for Mount Abe, senior Ira Fisher came out of his goal to play striker and contributed two goals and an assist, senior striker Ethan White knocked home two goals, senior midfielder Turner Brett chipped in a goal and a helper off the bench, junior midfielder Theo Weaver opened the scoring early on, and senior midfielder Aiden White-Pifer and sophomore midfielder Enrique Serrano added assists.
The road will become tougher for the Eagles: On Friday at 3 p.m. they will host No. 8 Milton, which improved to 7-7-1 on Tuesday by wiping out No. 9 seed Mill River, 7-1. The Yellowjackets have won six straight, including a 3-0 victory at No. 4 seed Rice, and in their last matchup with Mount Abe gave the Eagles a battle in a 1-0 game.
And before Tuesday’s game, the Eagles lost their first game of the season, 1-0 at Rice, on Saturday.
But Fisher — a former striker who shared time in goal with classmate Sawyer Kamman in 2012 and volunteered to take over the job fulltime this season — said that setback would only remind the Eagles what they need to do to claim the program’s second D-II title.
“I think the loss was actually good for us, because we hadn’t been playing our best, and that kind of shows us that we need to work hard,” Fisher said. “Going forward we’ve got to work our hardest, and if we play our hardest, we can produce results.”
Corey said he didn’t think his team played poorly in its loss at Rice, but said the Eagles could have better capitalized on their chances. Doing so moving forward will be another key to a postseason run, he believes, because the competition will solely consist of good teams.
“When you get to this stage of the season, it’s nip and tuck,” Corey said. “But I feel our chances are certainly good as anybody else’s, and I like being in that place.”
Avoiding the Eagles’ occasional tendency to give away the ball in the back will also be critical, he said.
“Some laxity in the back, being a little too relaxed with the ball under pressure … has resulted in a couple of games in which we’ve given up a couple early goals,” Corey said. “I think we understand we can’t do that, and we’re capable of not doing that.”
On Tuesday, all the Eagles had to do was show up against a Bellows Falls team that was gentlemanly — the Terriers did not commit a foul — but overmatched. They outshot BF, 43-7, 25-2 in the first half, and earned a 7-1 edge in corner kicks.
Weaver got the scoring started in the first minute, beating three defenders in the right side of the box and knocking the ball into the near corner off struggling first-half Terrier goalie Avery Perry (six saves). In the 10th minute, White’s low, hard shot from the 18 went through the goalie’s hands to make it 2-0.
Sophomore defender Charlie Meyer stepped into the attack and had two strong bids, but hit the crossbar and the post. Then Fisher — already moved out of the goal midway through the first half after making one save — made it 3-0 in the 23rd minute. Serrano served from the right side, and Fisher headed the ball into the near corner.
Calzini struck in the 32nd minute: His hard shot from the left side went between Perry’s legs to make it 4-0. In the 35th minute, Brett wrapped up the first-half scoring by belting home a White-Pifer rebound.
BF put four long-range shots on Eagle sophomore goalie Nick Sczcecinski after he took over, three in the second half, all from long range. One challenged Sczcecinski: Ten minutes into the second half the Eagle back line committed one of those miscues of which Corey spoke. Terrier Chris Doucet picked off the ball outside the Mount Abe box and looped a ball over Sczcecinski, who did well to move back and tip it over the bar.
At the other end, diminutive freshman Simon Bupp-Chickering took over in goal for BF and made 10 second-half stops, including three or four gems, notably a kick save on Fisher.
But the Eagles added four goals. Fisher took a Calzini feed from the left side and converted in the sixth minute, a wide-open White tapped home a left-to-right feed from Fisher midway through the half, in the 23rd minute Calzini turned in the left side of the box and fired a pretty shot into the far corner, and with six minutes left Calzini knocked home a cross from Brett.
In the early going, the Eagle defense of junior Gus Catlin in the middle and Meyer and junior Whit Lower on the flanks admired the scenery and broke up the occasional BF foray until Corey started subbing. White-Pifer and senior midfielder Cale Thygesen were among those who took turns in the back.
Afterward Fisher and Corey talked more about what was to come than Tuesday’s non-contest.
“I think if we play our game like we have been playing, we should do well,” Fisher said.
Corey noted that if the Eagles get past Milton, likely opponents include familiar foes Rice and Green Mountain Valley.
“We may face teams we’ve already faced a couple of times the way the bracketing has worked,” Corey said. “I think that’s a good thing, because we know those teams. We’re excited about the opportunity.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.