BRANDON — The young Otter Valley Union High School boys’ lacrosse team hung with visiting Mount Abraham for a half on Friday, but then the more experienced Eagles pulled away for a 16-3 victory.
With the halftime score set at 6-3, senior Eagle attacker Travis Bachand launched six straight shots in the first 2:13 of the third period, connecting on the final three to push the lead to 9-3 and put Mount Abe (2-0) on the path to the win. Bachand finished with a game-high four goals.
After each team controlled five first-half draws, the Eagle midfielders won five out of six in the decisive third period, which ended with the score 11-3.
Eagle coach Paul Lowe credited the OV defenders — juniors Adam Sherwin and Alex Hunt and sophomore Trevor Lear started in the back — for their work, while sophomore goalie Carson Leary made 11 of his 18 saves in the first half. Lowe said it took a while for his team to adjust to the Otter man defense after seeing zone in their first game.
“Otter Valley played a very tight one-on-one defense, which we hadn’t experienced,” Lowe said. “Our players played extremely well, but they made some errors in their judgment about how closely they were being played, and they have to recognize to pass the ball sooner.”
OV Coach Randy Stewart agreed his back line fared well, but with the Otters struggling with their fundamentals on Friday his defense ultimately could not withstand the pressure. OV (0-3) could not maintain possession, and Leary and the defense was often under siege.
“We did some good things, and we did some bad things,” Stewart said. “We dropped too many balls today. That’s what it came down to. It’s the one thing we work on day-in, day-out. We open up every practice throwing and catching. But we dropped too many balls, and then we got frustrated, and we played their game.”
Last week was also OV’s spring break, and Stewart reluctantly acknowledged the Otters — a team with no seniors and three juniors on its roster — were without several starters.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” he said. “I was missing a couple that would have made a difference.”
The Eagles took a 3-0 lead in the first period, scoring early on junior middie Gus Catlin’s 15-foot bounce shot, in the fifth minute on sophomore attacker Lucas Richter’s solo move, and later on Bachand’s first strike. That was set up by senior defender Paul Sabourin, who blocked a shot, scooped the ball and led the fast break; Sabourin played a strong game overall.
OV failed to generate offense despite three Eagle penalties, and Leary kept it close with three late saves, including a point-blank stop from his knees at the horn on a Richter breakaway.
OV fought back in the second: Sophomore Colton Leno scored twice in the first 2:34 to make it 3-2. He converted a behind-the-net feed from freshman Tyson Cram at 11:24, and at 9:26 picked the near corner from the left side with OV a man up.
The Eagles scored the next two: Sophomore middie Dylan Weaver reached high to net a Bachand feed and Richter converted on the fast break on the first of sophomore middie Charlie Meyer’s three assists. Meyer, who Lowe credited with “controlling the middle of the field,” also scooped six ground balls.
OV’s Jeritt Patch picked a corner from long range at 7:55, but that was all the Eagle defense of Sabourin, senior Jason Hartman, sophomore Matt George, junior Tyrus Keith, sophomore long-stick middie Caleb Cousino and sophomore goalie Tucker Paradee (13 saves) allowed.
At 7:17, Eagle sophomore middie Cobi Badger scored the first of his three goals to make it 6-3. Then Leary made several stops to preserve that score until halftime.
Then Bachand caught fire, and Mount Abe kept coming. In the third, Badger scored again, and junior Tyler Willey converted a Meyer feed. Among the scorers in the fourth for Mount Abe was freshman Will White Pifer.
Lowe said he was happy with the Eagle defense and transition play, but wants the Eagles to improve their settled ball movement.
And he said challenges lie ahead for a team that is off to a good start.
“It’s kind of difficult to assess the quality of our team at this point,” Lowe said. “We have some tough teams ahead of us, and we have some more work to get ready.”
For OV, midfielders Keenan Pratt, Will Ross and Robertas Nielsen were among those who had good moments scooping ground balls and defending. Stewart said his young team will improve because it is coachable and works hard.
“I have kids that listen,” Stewart said. “I can talk to a kid and say this is what we need to do, and they’ll actually take it to heart and then go out and produce that, and that’s positive.”