VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School soccer team shrugged off yet a couple more injuries and used a strong defensive effort to blank visiting Middlebury on Tuesday, 2-0.
The Commodores began the fall knowing that two projected contributors would miss the season with knee injuries. They started Tuesday’s game without high-scoring sophomore Kenadi Dattilio, who they hope will return vs. Mount Abraham this Saturday after being hurt last week. And then they saw senior central midfielder Gen Cohn go down with an ankle injury in the 32nd minute while Tuesday’s game was still scoreless.
Cohn did not return, but was putting weight on the ankle afterward.
But a VUHS defense led by seniors Molly Brigan at sweeper and Rikki Cloutier on the left side, with help from junior Ashley Brunet and sophomore Tabby Danyow, did not allow a shot on either of two goalies: senior Christina Stinchfield in 65 minutes or sophomore Hannah Curler in 15.
VUHS coach Dwight Irish said his defense really began to gel in the second half of the 2-1 Commodores’ dramatic comeback win over previously unbeaten Colchester last week, and then kept up the good work on Tuesday.
“That’s going to be our strength. It showed up in Colchester, and it showed up today,” Irish said.
MUHS coach Jen Clark said she was hoping for a little more from her 0-3 Tigers after competitive efforts in home losses to Rice and Harwood to open their season. Athletes like defenders Lauren Betourney, Alora Kelley and Rosalie Wright-Lapin; midfielder Jane McCabe; and notably freshman forward Izzy Fleming played well, but Clark said the team-wide consistency she expects her team to develop this fall was missing on Tuesday.
“We had a lot of bright moments with particular players, but I don’t think anyone was solid throughout. That’s one thing we need to work on, just players playing more solidly throughout the whole thing,” she said. “But it’s coming.”
Vergennes had the early pressure, and striker Lexa Higbee had a great chance in the sixth minute after picking up a short clearing attempt, but fired just wide right.
MUHS had a good stretch in the 15th minute, forcing two corner kicks, but Cohn cleared both. Tiger middie Eliza Carver then sent forward Liz Kelley into the box, but Danyow broke up the play.
The flow evened out for the next 10 minutes, with Fleming making an impact for MUHS when she entered at left wing. In the 32nd minute, she beat two players in the left corner to the top of the box and fired just high, the Tigers’ best chance of the game.
Three minutes later VUHS had the lead. Wing Kim Pratt sent in a ball from the right side, and it bounced outside the box to sophomore middie Lily Haigis. Haigis sent in a long, high shot that freshman MUHS goalie Sydney Reigle — who made 10 saves as a last-minute fill-in for ailing starter Sara Boudah — managed to get her fingertips on, but couldn’t keep out of the net.
Reigle soon afterward denied striker Casey Shea on a run into the box, and it was 1-0 at the half.
VUHS came out in the second half moving the ball well, and scored quickly. Reigle again came out, this time to deny Pratt, but VUHS came right back. Middie Margaret Quinn prevented the Tigers from clearing and sent a ball across the box from the right side. It spun off a defender right to striker Natalie McClay, who buried a left-footed shot in the upper left corner to make it 2-0.
The Tigers again created some pressure, but VUHS held. Stinchfield came out to beat wing Molly Clarke to a ball sent in by Kelley, middie Josie Schneider and Fleming forced a corner kicks, Danyow blocked a Betourney shot, middie Emily Fleming shot wide on a feed from middie Danielle Shaw, and Izzy Fleming picked off a Stinchfield clear but couldn’t get a shot off on her vacated goal.
“Middlebury played hard down the stretch and made it a little bit difficult for us,” Irish said.
But in the final minutes, VUHS took control again, with Greta Krahn, Shauna LaFave, Margy Kerschner and Quinn doing good work at midfield. In all, VUHS earned edges of 19-3 in shots at goal and 5-4 in corner kicks.
Irish said the Commodores appear to be pointed in the right direction, especially when they remember to settle the ball and look for one another.
“If we can play like we did against Colchester going down the stretch and into the playoffs, we’ll be in good shape,” he said. “We’re feeling good.”
Clark hopes for more poise and more consistency from the Tigers than they showed on Tuesday.
“I don’t think we came out playing as well as we can,” she said. “I think the girls know that, and we know we have to just step up our game and play better, really.”