VERGENNES — A hundred minutes of high school boys’ soccer ended up in a 1-1 tie on Saturday between host Vergennes and Middlebury as the regular season ended.
The 4-8-2 Commodores unofficially have earned Division II’s No. 10 seed, which the Vermont Principals Association was set to confirm early on Monday.
VUHS will travel on Tuesday or Wednesday to face a No. 7 Milton team (6-7-1) that has come on strong. The Commodores beat Milton in overtime at home on Sept. 24, 2-1, but played what Coach Kevin Hayes called a poor game in a 4-0 loss on Oct. 8.
Although the Commodores failed to win on Saturday, they won at Missisquoi earlier in the week, 2-0. Hayes said his defense is playing well, allowing only one goal last week and only six shots on Saturday.
“We were on an upward curve after the Missisquoi win, so it would have been nice to get another win,” Hayes said. “(But) we’ve only conceded one goal in two games now.”
The 1-12-1 Tigers also played well last week, dropping a competitive 2-1 match at Mount Abraham before Saturday’s tie.
But MUHS did not qualify for the D-I tournament, meaning first-year coach Bret Weekes’ five seniors — midfielder Rio McCarty and defenders Max Livingstone-Peters, Cole Bennett, Julian Hamilton and Mathias VanOrder Gonzalez — have played their last soccer for MUHS.
Weekes said they can remember not only their roles in 2012’s dream season, but also their contributions to a rebuilding campaign with a young squad.
“They’ve gutted it out this year under very adverse circumstances,” Weekes said. “And I hope they’ll be able to look back next year at this squad and recognize that the wins the squad is going to have next year is due in part to their efforts.”
Both defenses played well on Saturday. Seniors Josh Benning and Ryan Moriglioni anchored the middle of the VUHS back line, with junior Ryan McEntee and senior Logan Ambrose starting on the flanks. Senior Jordan Stearns also worked tirelessly at defensive midfield.
“I was very happy with our defense. We had some very good moments there,” Hayes said.
Both teams had more chances in the first half, when VUHS outshot MUHS, 8-4, and Tiger goalie Bo Tran picked up four of his six saves, including denying a long ball from VUHS junior middie Dana Ambrose early on.
Tran also came out to break up plays, picking up a dribble that just got away from VUHS junior striker Liam Hayes in the 22nd minute and snaring junior midfielder Liam Godfrey’s 30th-minute serve into the box.
“Bo did a nice job. I thought he was more active in the box today,” Weekes said.
In the first half, the MUHS midfield also did well keeping the ball on the ground and linking up, with McCarty, sophomore Drew Barnicle and juniors Evan Ryan, Cal Birdsey and Oliver Clark all working well.
In the 28th minute, an MUHS corner kick paid off. Barnicle served, and the ball bounced off a defender to freshman Lucas Pyle, who tapped it in at 12:28 for his first Tiger goal.
Ryan almost made it 2-0 a couple minutes later, when his direct kick from the right side hit the far post.
But VUHS got the next score, thanks to VUHS junior Luke Paquin’s first career goal. Godfrey crossed from the left, and Paquin outmuscled two defenders and knocked the ball in from close range at 4:19.
VUHS junior goalie Dylan Raymond, like Tran, came out to disrupt plays, but had to make just one save, a good one with two minutes left in the half. Barnicle hit from long range into a knot of defenders, and the ball deflected toward the lower right corner. Raymond dove to knock it wide.
The second half was contested largely at midfield. Hayes had an early bid, but missed high, and Tiger sophomore Burke Weekes and Livingstone-Peters each made key defensive plays as the Commodores earned more territory — the Tigers did not launch a shot in the half. In the final minute, Livingstone-Peters headed one ball out of danger, and Tran moved to his left to snare a Hayes bid set up by junior middie Jake Dombek. Raymond earlier also did well to snare a Ryan direct kick.
In the first overtime, officials waved off an apparent Paquin goal due to a handball, and VUHS dodged a bullet when a Barnicle cross deflected off a defender and then off the top of the crossbar. In the second extra session, the Commodores failed to cash in on three corner kicks.
Weekes credited the Commodores for their defense, and his own players for two strong games as their season ended.
“There are a lot of things for us to build on,” Weekes said. “I think we saw this week what this team is capable of.”
Hayes said the ups and downs Saturday mirror those of the season for his inexperienced team, but there have been high points that he hopes will carry over into the postseason.
“They’re young, nine guys new to the starting squad, so that’s huge,” he said. “They’re getting it. I really think they are. It’s just hopefully we can keep the momentum going into the playoffs.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]