Goals in each half send Vermont to men’s Lions Cup win

Rutland Herald
Published: 7/21/2019 9:55:11 AM
Modified: 7/21/2019 10:05:03 AM

CASTLETON, Vt. — Stephen Lavesque, the Vermont men’s Lions Cup soccer coach, couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

Vermont scored goals early in each half and then relied upon strong defense and midfield play and standout goaltending by Aiden Johnson and Sam Schoepke to seal the deal on a 2-0 victory Saturday over New Hampshire in the 45th Lions Twin State Soccer Cup at Castleton University’s Dave Wolk Stadium.

The win is the fourth in five year for Vermont and avenges a 1-0 loss last year. The overall record now stands at 20-17-8 in New Hampshire’s favor.

“We’re up and coming, getting better, and we have some hidden gems,” said Ben Turner of Middlebury, who won Vermont’s 12th Player Award. “People underestimate Vermont, and the players that are coming up will build a better soccer community and better future for Vermont.”

Hanover’s Liam Collins earned the 12th Player honors for New Hampshire.

It didn’t take Vermont long to flex its soccer muscle.

Like a bolt of lightning, a shot in close by Harwood’s Will Lapointe put the Green Mountain boys on top at 3:26. The shot capped early pressure and set the tone for a team that seemed hungry and determined.

New Hampshire came back hard at Vermont, but Essex’s Adam Lyon and his cadre of backs along with Turner and his midfield crew were solid and commanded their area. Anything that got by was scooped up or covered by Vermont’s first-half goalie, CVU’s Johnson, who made four saves on four strong shots by the Granite Staters in the first 45 minutes.

The second half was almost a carbon copy of the first as Mount Anthony’s Dave Chorlton buried a direct kick in the upper left-hand corner of the net from about 30 yards off. The sudden goal, less than three minutes from the second-half kickoff, gave Vermont great confidence.

“That was a great kick; he got fouled, and that was the right call,” said Lavesque, the St. Johnsbury Academy coach. “That was a great finish.”

Just after Vermont doubled its lead, New Hampshire counterattacked. The Granite Staters applied heavy pressure on the Vermont goal, but Stowe’s Schoepke was equal to the task. He ate up a great ball on a New Hampshire corner, elevated to make a tremendous tip save as play continued and following that up with another strong stop to shut the door. Schoepke denied or turning away all five shots he faced. Schoepke also earned the Vermont Sportsmanship Award.

“They are both different kinds of keepers,” Levesque said. “Aiden from CVU has the great hands and Sam from Stowe has great length and he made great reaction saves. I was lucky to have two unbelievable keepers.”

With the two-goal lead, Vermont played it smart. It cleared everything that came into its zone, while maintaining an attack posture. Levesque subbed liberally, and the steady flow of reserves entering the game seemed to break up the New Hampshire rhythm.

South Burlington’s Tenzin Choedak, Rutland’s Jacob Henderson, West Rutland’s Eric Maxham and Lapointe continued to apply pressure on the counterattack off failed New Hampshire thrusts. And the Vermont team kept coming back at New Hampshire with more bodies.

“Our team was so deep we could sub a lot and keep guys fresh,” Levesque said. “There was no drop off when we subbed; we put players in and they could compete so it was good.”

Vermont’s depth frustrated New Hampshire. It was hot and, even with the sun down, the heat surged and both teams were affected. The referees called plenty of fouls in the second half, and that didn’t help New Hampshire’s tempo.

“We had great players from all over the state; every division was represented and we had the luxury of coaching them the last few days,” Levesque said. “They bonded. They wanted this game and they were motivated.”

In addition to Collins’ honor, New Hampshire awards went to Pembroke’s Jake Mavity as most valuable player and Coe-Brown’s Lucciano Minasalli as 12th Player.

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