BENNINGTON >> The Mount Anthony boys soccer team started its season the same way it did a year ago. The Patriots fell Saturday, 3-0, to Essex, one year after losing 2-0 to the Hornets.
But 2015 ended with the Patriots going 12-4-1 and reaching the Division I Final Four, so if this is the same jumping off point, that will suit coach Mike Molloy just fine.
"Last year starting the season we lost 2-0 and made some mistakes," Molloy said. "Today was a similar sort of game. We like to see what the North looks like, to compete and raise our level, they are the only North team we see. Now we can see where we're at, and go forward."
The teams played a very even first half, with neither team dominating play in the first 20 minutes. Goalie Dylan Woodside, in his first varsity game for the Patriots, was strong, making a nice diving save to stop a run in the 13th minute. In the 25th minute, Woodside made his best save of the afternoon on a corner kick, diving and punching the ball over the top of the net.
Woodside made 12 saves on a busy afternoon in the net.
"Dylan made some nice saves, but his worst enemy is himself sometimes," Molloy said. "He can make point-blank saves, he had a tremendous first half, but he was a little out of sorts at times in the second. I liked his energy and effort, he was definitely our man of the match, for sure."
But the Essex attack continued and finally broke through in the 35th minute, when AJ Whitney blasted a left-footed shot past Woodside for a 1-0 advantage. Hamza Halilovic had the assist.
Essex almost doubled the lead in the final minute of the first half, but after a Woodside save, the ball squirted out in front and MAU's Matthew Anderson kept the ball out of the goal to help his keeper.
"We played a good first half and I think we were content and happy at halftime being down just 1-0," Molloy said. "It was 1-0 and we were battling, they had some good opportunities but the opportunities they had were mistakes from us, we could fix those."
The second half was all Essex, as they nearly scored again in the 58th minute with a rocket that dinged off the crossbar and was cleared. They did score another in the 50th minute when after a controversial foul call in the penalty area, Matt Lyon converted on the penalty kick to make it 2-0.
"We slowed down in the second half, I don't know if it's maybe 80 minutes from a quality squad, they have some efficient, big players," Molloy said. "We weren't playing hard at that point in time and it took the wind out of our sails."
Essex put the game away in the 72nd minute when on an odd man rush, Spencer Towle assisted on Ryan Guerino's first varsity goal for the Hornets for the final 3-0 tally.
The Hornets' Paul Federico made one save for the shutout.
The Patriots have a pair of away games at Mill River and Brattleboro next week before returning home to face Arlington in the opening round of the John James Tournament.