VERGENNES — In a midseason match-up on Saturday of two high school boys’ soccer teams off to promising starts, visiting Mount Abraham prevailed, 4-0, over shorthanded Vergennes.
Coach Mike Corey’s Eagles moved to 2-1-2 by scoring twice in each half and dominating the second half, while Coach Kevin Hayes’ Commodores dropped to 3-2-1.
Mount Abe was coming off a 2-1 loss to undefeated BFA-Fairfax and a road tie at undefeated Missisquoi. Senior striker and captain Grayson Webb (a goal and an assist vs. VUHS) said Saturday would give the Eagles a lift.
“We’ve only had one other win, so this is really going to help boost our morale,” Webb said. “And it’s a great to win against such a big rival.”
Just as important, Webb said, was how the Eagles won. They were opportunistic in the even first half; got solid work from goalie John Lower, sweeper Zach Ellison, flank backs Conor McDonough and Will Smith, and defensive midfielder Tommy Nelson; and took over the game by controlling the ball in the second half.
“We heard Vergennes was really good ... But we just came out and played our game of possession,” Webb said. “We’ve been working hard in practice just trying to possess instead of kicking it around.”
Corey acknowledged the absence of key VUHS starters Devin Hayes (illness) and Charlie Stapleford (sore foot) handicapped the Commodores. But Corey said he was happy that his defenders did not allow the VUHS forwards behind them, his reserves contributted, and that his team gradually took control.
“If we continue to play that way, Coach will be happy,” he said.
Hayes, too, credited the Eagles’ play at midfield, where Alex McCormick and Cale Thygesen were instrumental in the possession game.
“They’re a good team,” Hayes said. “They’ve got good skills. They put it together well, which we didn’t manage to do.”
Mount Abe struck first in the fourth minute. Right middie Daniel Moon lofted a ball from the flank to the far post, where the VUHS defense lost track of McCormick. McCormick knocked a header high into the net, giving VUHS goalie Stephen Paquette (14 saves) no chance.
Play began to swing the Commodores’ way. Their center middie, Zach Ouellette, and right middie, Michael Danyow, made impacts, as did middie Timmy Shea, striker Timmy Johnston, and Colin Babcock, both at middie and striker.
Eagle goalie John Lower came out to beat Danyow to a Johnston serve, Johnston fired wide after Babcock stripped a defender and fed him, and middie Lane Kessler shot high from long range.
The Commodores also had to play some defense. Backs Jordan Stearns and Ryan Crowningshield cleared a corner kick and a well-struck Ian Campbell direct kick, respectively, from the goalmouth, and Cody Quattrocci held his own on the right side.
But VUHS had the two best chances, and Lower responded. Danyow sent Babcock into the left side of the box, and Lower lunged to his left to snatch his 12-yard drive. Lower later dove to his left to stop a Danyow drive from the top of the box that was ticketed for the lower left corner.
Then the Eagles countered. A VUHS clear was not well struck, and the Eagles sent it back into the box. Fisher tipped it to Webb, alone near the penalty stripe, and he picked the lower left corner with 13 minutes left in the half.
That one hurt, Hayes said.
“We were moving the ball with patience, which I wanted, getting the ball out wide, and (their second goal) was against the run of play,” Hayes said.
VUHS had a great chance to pull within one as the second half opened, but middie Eddie Devino headed just high on a corner kick.
Then the Eagles took charge and added two goals in the final 10 minutes. Fisher tapped in a rebound of a Webb bid, and in the final moments Fisher slid a loose ball to middie Dylan Thygesen, who walked it into the left side of the goal.
Lower finished with six saves, while Truman Daniels was untested in the Eagle net in the final 20 minutes.
Overall, Corey will be looking for more of the same.
“There was some good ball movement, and some good movement up top with some speed,” Corey said.
The Commodores could be back at full strength by Wednesday, when they visit Milton. Overall, Hayes said they have to continue to hone their skills, but he is happy with the Commodores’ progress and attitude.
“Our goal was to be above .500 at the halfway mark of the season, and ... we’ll be there,” Hayes said. “Second goal is home field for the playoffs, and then see how it goes. And I think we can manage that. It’s been a great start, good for the program, more wins than the last couple years. And it’s a good bunch of guys. They’re a positive bunch.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.