MIDDLEBURY — In the end, the Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team had to settle for an honorable bronze medal in Division I this spring.
On Tuesday, top-seeded host Champlain Valley ended the Tigers’ season with a decisive 16-6 victory in a D-I semifinal, and the 16-1 Redhawks advanced to a weekend final against No. 2 South Burlington (15-2).
The Tigers finished at 13-5, with every loss coming against those top two teams. The Tiger boys’ team résumé includes two decisive wins over No. 3 Woodstock, 17-5 and 6-2, and a 20-8 quarterfinal rout over undeserving No. 4 Brattleboro, which, like Woodstock, the Vermont Principals’ Association rewarded at seeding time for playing a soft schedule.
That four-goal win at Woodstock was the closest game the Tigers played all spring other than four competitive results vs. those top two teams: one-goal regular-season losses at CVU and at home vs. SBHS, a three-goal loss at the Rebels, and a four-goal loss at home vs. CVU.
Coach Dennis Smith agreed the Tigers did well this spring.
“The only losses we had were to CVU and South Burlington, and it looks like they’re probably the top two teams in the state. On any given day any one of those three can beat anybody,” Smith said. “Our kids had a great season.”
But the Tigers did not play their best game on Tuesday against the Redhawks, who returned almost all of the key players who won the 2013 title.
“They’re a very good team. They’re a very deep team,” Smith said. “We don’t have to play a flawless game, but you’ve got to play with fewer mistakes, a lot fewer than we made today. We just made a lot of mistakes, and they played aggressive.”
With CVU middie Steele Dubrul controlling most of the faceoffs and the Tigers turning the ball over when they did get their sticks on it, the Redhawks bolted to a 6-1 first-quarter lead.
Five Redhawks scored in the period, including two goals by Griffin DiParlo, with Hoyt McCuin picking up three of his four assists. Junior middie Bobby Ritter tallied the lone Tiger goal, picking up a pass from sophomore Ali Abdul Sater in the slot and bouncing a shot home.
With senior defender Sam Smith winning faceoffs early in the second period, the Tigers made a run. Senior attacker Keenan Bartlett netted a behind-the-net feed from junior Connor Quinn 38 seconds in, and at 10:40 senior attacker Sam Usilton converted a crease roll after a Redhawk penalty to make it 6-3.
At 9:30, Usilton duplicated that feat with the sides at even strength, and it was 6-4. Then a long-range bomb from Alex Bulla and the second of CVU attacker Nevin DiParlo’s four goals pushed the lead to 8-4 at 6:43. The Tigers got one more goal in the period, again on a crease roll from the left side, this one at 1:54, but CVU responded 1:14 later when McCuin set up the second of Matt Palmer’s four goals to make it 9-5 at the break.
It turned out that Usilton’s goal was the last the Tigers would score for more than 13 minutes. By then Dubrul (from Palmer), McCuin and DiParlo (from Elliot Mitchell in transition) had pushed CVU’s lead to 12-5. The Tiger goal came from Bartlett, again from Quinn, and made it 12-6 after three.
CVU tacked on four more goals in the fourth quarter. Smith said the Tigers were unable to build on the momentum they generated early in the second period.
“We did answer there in the second quarter and brought it back, but we just went level again,” he said. “We just didn’t make a lot of good plays today.”
Tiger junior goalie Nathan Lalonde made several good stops among the eight with which he was credited. CVU goalie Owen Hudson recorded seven stops.
Among the nine seniors who will graduate from the Tiger program are several mainstays, including Usilton and Smith, the captains; Bartlett; midfielders Nathan Hermann and Nick Audet; attacker/middie Seth Wright; and long-stick middie Max Livingstone-Peters. Middies Christopher Ewell and Kevin Galenkamp also saw action.
Some will still see some action in upcoming all-star games.
“There are a few seniors that still have a game left, in the Senior Showcase, and a couple of them are playing in the Vermont-New Hampshire game,” Smith said. “You could see on today’s field. They stood out and made great plays, and it’s where they belong.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.