Vermont Boys Keep the Offense Coming

Castleton, Vt. — The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl football game might be up for debate, but the boys’ half of the Lions Twin State Soccer Cup belongs squarely in the hands of the Green Mountain State.

Vermont maintained its stranglehold over its Twin State brethren on Saturday at Castleton State College. Champlain Valley Union’s Joseph Castano scored two goals and Mount Abraham’s Cale Thygesen had a goal and an assist as Vermont won its third straight Lions Cup match in convincing 4-1 fashion.

“They’re very competitive; they’re a very athletic, a very talented group,” saud Vermont coach Richard “Doc” Seubert of Middlebury Union High School. “It had nothing to do with last year’s score — it was really all about this group. Every year we face a different team, and we are a different team. They started the weekend with a purpose, and they ended it achieving that purpose.”

Having outscored New Hampshire 5-2 last season, Vermont was hoping to bring that kind of dominance into this one, and it struck early. Less than five minutes into the game, a hard shot by Thygesen caromed off New Hampshire goalkeeper Thomas Adler, leaving Stowe forward Robert Buonanno to snap home the rebound.

Five minutes later, Harford’s Jed Sass placed a perfect corner kick into the goal mouth, where Thygesen scored on a header to give his team a 2-0 advantage. Vermont continued with its hard-nosed and lightning-quick offensive assault to build a three-goal lead, when Castano smoked one in from the right post into the opposite corner.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire put Vermont starting keeper Matthew Fischer of Harwood to a few early tests, and he responded beautifully. First, Timothy Wood fired from about 10 yards out just three minutes into the game, and Fischer laid out for it to make the save. He’d make a similar effort 13 minutes later on a point-blank header by Douglas Fleury, and he brought a shutout effort and a 3-0 lead into the halftime break.

“Getting a third goal makes a difference, because when you’re ahead 2-0, the first goal of the second half can dictate the outcome,” Seubert said. “So having that third goal was really big for us.”

A fourth goal would’ve been even bigger, and Vermont tried to get one early in the second half. Thygesen delivered a beautiful shot toward the upper right corner of the net about 13 minutes into the second half, and New Hampshire’s new goalie, Spencer Hoyt, made a spectacular one-handed save to keep the deficit from growing any bigger.

Good thing, too, because shortly thereafter, his teammates made it smaller. Samuel Binogono dribbled deep into the box and delivered the Granite State’s only goal of the day with 29:53 left to play.

“We remained composed in those first five, 10 minutes (after halftime),” Seubert said. “We knew they’d come at us hard out of the chute in the second half, and they did, and we withstood it. We gave up a goal, but (we) didn’t seem to get too affected by it. … Our guys didn’t buckle.”

Castano netted his second with just 45 ticks left. Vermont has now outscored New Hampshire 9-3 the last two years.

Thygesen was named Vermont’s most valuable player. CVU defender Zack Evans of CVU won the 12th man award, and Sass won the sportsmanship award. New Hampshire’s MVP went to Binogono.

The Vermont girls erased two one-goal deficits, the latter with just over a minute to play, to record a 2-2 draw with New Hampshire in the Lions Cup’s opening contest.

U-32’s Emily George secured the team’s MVP award when she rebounded her own shot off diving New Hampshire keeper Jessica Long and tucked it into the lower right corner with only 1:03 remaining.

It wasn’t a win, but it did lend at least some satisfaction to a frustrated Vermont team that had outshot its adversary by 21-8 but couldn’t put away the equalizer to that point.

“It really was a tie that felt like a win,” Vermont coach Dustin Corrigan of Mount Abraham said. “It felt like, the way the girls played, we could’ve scored four or five goals, but we didn’t.

“And that late in the match, you’re still down, you want to get something out of it. Getting the tying goal made it feel much, much better than going away with a loss after having so many chances in front of the net.”

New Hampshire drew first blood just over 10 minutes into the game, when Courtney Benson got a high-bouncing ball from deep in the backfield and popped a shot over Vermont keeper Courtney Ley of Mill River.

Vermont tied the match with 26:10 left in the first half when BFA-St. Albans’ Danielle Schreiner and Burlington’s Kaitlin Donahue combined to set up a goal from Black River’s Morgan Kathan.

New Hampshire didn’t wait long to take the lead back — less than two

minutes — on a 40-yard bomb from Sarah Carlson that got a piece of Ley’s hand before entering the net.

Aside from George’s MVP effort, Kathan won 12th player honors for Vermont, while Peoples’ Hannah Merriam won the Sportsmanship award. Carlson won the MVP for New Hampshire.