Eagle boys roll Tide, pick up fifth victory
BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School soccer team set the tone early on Saturday against visiting Spaulding, lost its mojo for a stretch, and then finished strong with one goal late in the first half and three more in the second in a convincing 5-0 win.
Junior striker Branden Reynolds continued to find the net for the Eagles, scoring both goals before the break to give him nine in six games.
Reynolds also set up one of senior midfielder Eric McKean’s two goals. McKean assisted both of Reynolds’ goals, and senior midfielder Silas Burgess added a goal and an assist.
At the other end Spaulding created anxious moments with long balls and set pieces. But ultimately the Eagle back four of junior Griffin Paradee and senior Jonas Schroeder in the middle and senior Ryan Lathrop and sophomore Neil Guy on the flanks limited the Tide to five shots on senior goalie Ryan DeWitt (four saves) and junior Quincy Cook (one in the late going).
Five goals yesterday gave the Eagles 22 in six games. On Saturday McKean, Burgess, senior middie Liam Davison and sophomore middie Eli Burgess were among those putting pressure on Spaulding.
McKean said the Eagles have improved their possession play, but also are using the speed of players like Reynolds, Davison and both Burgesses to attack with longer balls on the flanks and down the middle.
“We’ve been working a lot this season on passing the ball and getting it off our foot quicker,” McKean said. “We’ve resorted a little bit more to long balls just because of how fast we are up top, but I think we’re starting to integrate both, which is really good.”
Second-year Coach Bob Russell’s Eagles have already equaled their 2018 win total, and he said he appreciates the team’s attacking mentality.
“We’ve really committed to being able to all be effective going forward,” Russell said. “We understand it’s a whole team effort from the goalkeeper on to the No. 9 (striker). And we have a purpose and an intention, and people are executing.”
The defense has been without injured senior center back Sam Schoenhuber, who said he hopes to return soon. Russell said Saturday against winless Spaulding was “an off day” despite the shutout, but he is confident the group will sort things out.
“Even with Sam gone we’re usually solid in the back,” Russell said. “They’ll hold themselves to a higher quality. At the back, they don’t want to get beat, for sure.”
The Eagles took the lead four minutes in, after Tide goalie Levi Hilton-VanOsdall had already denied Davison after a serve from Eli Burgess. McKean carried down the middle and drew the defense before tapping the ball to his right to Reynolds, who took one touch inside the box and finished from 12 yards out into the upper right side.
Hilton-VanOsdall (11 saves) denied both Silas Burgess and Reynolds before play tilted toward the Tide 20 minutes in. Spaulding’s Taylor D’Agostino headed just wide of the Eagle net in the 21st minute, the Tide’s Keagen Desjardins fired wide in the 28th minute, and the Eagles blocked a D’Agostino free kick just outside of the box in the 37th minute.
The Eagles made it 2-0 in the final minute. The goal looked much like their first, with McKean setting up Reynolds cutting into the right side of the box, except this time Reynolds’ 15-yard shot hit the lower left corner.
After the break, the Eagle pressure paid off with three goals in the final 16:22. At 16:22, Silas Burgess pounced on a Lucas Jensen serve from the right side at the top of the box and pounded a shot back inside the right post. A minute later McKean took a feed from Silas Burgess and hit the right side of the net, and at 5:15 McKean unleashed a 24-yard rocket into the right side.
McKean said the Eagles “got a little too comfortable” in the first half, and they need to play the proverbial 80 minutes.
“We’ve been doing that a little too much this season,” he said. “Our halftime chat was good, and I thought it got us amped up again.”
Overall, McKean said the Eagles have the talent and chemistry to make a postseason run.
“This is just the start,” McKean said. “I think we can be a lot better than this.”
Russell agrees, as long as they keep putting in the effort.
“At the outset of the season our goal was to compete in every game. We’ve been competitive, but we haven’t been fully competitive to our level in every game,” he said. “So it’s just up to how we’re going to work in training.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.