ARLINGTON — It’s funny how much can change in the course of a year. Friday night’s boys soccer game between visiting Long Trail and host Arlington is a prime example.
Last fall, the Arlington boys soccer team stumbled out of the gate, dropping its first two games of the season before regrouping and making a run toward the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, finishing 6-10 overall. Meanwhile, Long Trail didn’t even have a boys soccer team in 2021.
The growth of both programs was on full display Friday as Arlington managed a 2-1 victory over the Mountain Lions in a tightly contested battle.
Arlington coach Todd Wilkins recognizes it’s a long season and likes what he’s seen from his group as the Eagles moved to 2-0.
“I'm pleased with where we're at for a second game. You always gotta iron out some stuff these first couple games,” he said. “We have moments of brilliance and then we'll kind of back off. I think by the time we get to the end of the season, we'll be stringing together hopefully 80 minutes of brilliance.”
That first flash of Eagles brilliance came courtesy of Brooks Enzensperger, who got the scoring started with 14 minutes remaining in the first half. He was set up nicely and in stride on a great pass from Hunter Hill-McDermott on the score.
Long Trail answered with an equally impressive set play. Jack Dickerson placed a corner kick directly in front of the net and Adam KulasKlopchin finished it off with a well-placed header into the Arlington net to even things at 1-1 with 4:40 remaining in the opening half.
“Really good service from Jack and Adam got up and just buried it,” said Long Trail coach Colin Igoe. “Scoring on set pieces is always nice; they've been working on that in training and it's good to see it pay off.”
The score remained 1-1 as the first half concluded. Long Trail, playing with just three substitutes, was determined to make life difficult for Arlington.
The difference maker came nine minutes into the second half off the foot of Joseph McCray and was the product of pressure near the LTS net. When a Mountain Lion defender failed to clear the ball out of danger, McCray was right there to capitalize. He played the ball to himself on one touch and made one quick cut toward the middle of the net, giving the Arlington playmaker just enough space to fire a shot in traffic. The play happened so quickly that by the time Mountain Lions goalkeeper Ty Dickerson reacted, the ball was already past him. Dickerson was strong protecting the Mountain Lions net, tallying six saves in the losing effort.
His counterpart, Arlington’s Andy Petry, finished with two saves.
LTS never quit, and nearly had the equalizer in the final minute. A diagonal pass sliced through the Arlington defense and found the foot of a sprinting Mountain Lions forward in front of the Arlington net with 50 seconds. The Mountain Lion had a fantastic look at the goal, with only Petry to beat, but he couldn’t lay it up and the shot sailed about a foot over the crossbar.
Igoe is proud of how the Mountain Lions battled on Friday night.
“There's no quit, we're a small group but we're mighty,” he said. “We wish obviously the end result was different, but so proud of the effort and I can't ask any more than what we saw.”
Arlington began muddying the game a bit after McCray’s go-ahead goal. The Eagles defense stepped up and limited the second half opportunities for their opponent, and freshman Ethan Pickering was a crucial part of that effort. The chances near the Arlington net were few and far between over the final 30 minutes of action. Wilkins said Pickering, a freshman, has gelled nicely with a pair of seniors in the back to solidify Arlington’s defense.
“He's got a good soccer IQ. He knows how to use what body he has, which is what's earned him the starting position,” Wilkins said. “They outsize him, they’re probably faster than he is, but he doesn't let that stop them. And with Brayden (Wilkins) and Cooper (Jennings) in the back there, they're just anchoring that up and being super solid.
Arlington (2-0) returns to the field on Thursday in the John James Tournament at Mount Anthony, where it will face off against Brattleboro at 5 p.m. Long Trail (0-2) will look to grab its first win on Tuesday against Proctor at 4:30 p.m.