BURLINGTON — After two rousing playoff wins to earn the first championship game appearance of the Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperation program, the fifth-seeded Eagles were hoping to add the team’s first title to their resume.
But at the University of Vermont on Thursday, June 9, defending champion and No. 2 Montpelier had other ideas.
The Solons (8-6 record) opened the game with a 4-0 run over the first 6-14, fended off challenges from the Eagles in the first and third quarters and eventually pulled away with a 17-8 victory.
Of course, the Eagles and Coach Ed Cook were disappointed, especially considering they lost by just two goals in the regular season at Montpelier.
But Cook stressed the positives afterwards, including wins away over two higher-seeded places to reach the final and the success of the program despite playing the entire season without three-year senior defender Carmelo Miceli, who has undoubtedly been the team’s best player would.
“We fought our way through the playoffs and fought our way through comebacks in both games. I’m proud of my boys,” Cook said. “It’s the first time Vergennes-Mount Abe Lacrosse has been here. That is a great achievement.”
As for the regular season, although the team’s record is officially 5-10, MAV would be 7-8 without two losses to accidental use of an ineligible player.
“We won a few games and played a really tough schedule,” Cook said.
But it became apparent early in the finals that it might not be the Eagles’ day. Despite senior middie Taylor Stearns consistently winning faceoffs, MAV struggled to keep the ball — except for their first possession when second attacker Noah Ladeau pinged the post.
After that near Eagle-Miss, the Solons erupted. Nolan Lyford scored the first of his three goals alone after 48 seconds, and after a MAV turnover, Greer Peloquin came in from the left to make it 2-0 at 9:54.
The Eagles had one man-up opportunity, but another turnover meant MAV goalie Connor Meacham had to make the first of his 17 saves. Then, at 7:40, Solon Brendon Tedeschi won a groundball in midfield and turned it into a breakaway, and his first goal of four made it 3-0. At 5:46, Sina Fallahi added an unassisted goal, and the Solons led by four.
The Eagles strengthened at the back for the rest of the half, and the Solons scored just four more before the break. And MAV broke through offensively late in the first quarter with two goals 26 seconds apart.
The first came when junior attacker Henry Anderson set up second-year middie Andrew Nolan from behind and left of the net, and Nolan found the bottom left corner from close range. Then Anderson hit the same spot at 3:58 a.m. after being fed from the right by Sawyer Shepard, a sophomore attacker.
Back-to-back penalties halted the MAV momentum, and Lyford used the second to bury a Fallahi feed at 2:12. Meacham made two big saves to end the quarter that ended 5-2 for the Solons.
Meacham continued the good work with three more stops early in the second while the Eagles continued to struggle to make Solon goalie Cal Davis look good, who made eight saves.
At 8:49 of the period, Peloquin made it 6-2. The Eagles started generating some shots, but Davis denied low Anderson bids from the top of the box three times, and goals from Lyford and Tedeschi increased the Solon lead to 8-2 at halftime.
The Eagles then came out and shot. Stearns won two faceoffs, and both times Ladeau lashed home unaided. At 10:14 Shepard converted from close range and the Eagles were back in the game 8-5.
“We’ve had great flare-ups,” Cook said. “We came out early in the third and scored a couple of goals in a minute and a half.”
But Davis made a big save against Shepard shortly after, and then the Solons besieged the Eagles. The defense and Meacham held out for a while, but the Eagles struggled to clear after stops and eventually cracked.
The Solons scored five goals at the final 5:35 of the third to be 13-5 after three quarters. Tae Rossmassler scored two goals on the run, and Lyford (on a fluke), Tedeschi and Dylan Good added one each.
Peloquin and Tedeschi both found the net to open the fourth and nail the win. The Eagles continued to struggle, adding two goals from Ladeau (tying him with Tedeschi for game honors) and one from Nolan in the late round, with Stearns and Sawyer collecting assists for Leonard.
Seniors making final appearances for MAV were Stearns, defensemen Collins Dupoise and Jade Edwards, and long-stick middie Creed Stillwell.
Cook said those four will be missed, but he believes the program will continue to thrive.
“We are so young. I have a few seniors in my defense, but my middies are all underclassmen and my attackers are all underclassmen,” he said. “We’re in good shape.”
Cook also noted the growing feeder program in the two communities, and he hopes this spring’s playoff run for Vergennes-Mount Abe Lacrosse could generate some buzz.
“As time went by, it became clear that we had the wheels and the sticks to get here,” Cook said. “And we have. We came up short. But we have something to build on.”