BENNINGTON — When the Mount Anthony boys soccer team stepped off the bus to face Stratton Mountain in the Sept. 29 matchup, the Patriots record sat at 2-4. For a roster filled with upperclassmen and high expectations, the start to the season was less than ideal.
The Patriots were coming off a 5-3 loss to Brattleboro, the same team which sent MAU to the consolation round of their hometown tournament just a week prior.
“I feel badly for them right now,” MAU coach Mike Molloy said after the loss to Brattleboro in the opening round of the John James tournament. “This is their senior year, this is their hometown tourney. There’s a lot of seniors and juniors who have put a lot into it.”
MAU has responded in a big way, and that shift in momentum began on that late September afternoon in Stratton. A 4-1 win marked the beginning of an active winning streak that has stretched to three weeks and seven games.
MAU is on a roll with just two games remaining until the playoffs. What makes its streak more impressive is that the three goal triumph over the Mountain Lions is the closest margin of victory over that stretch until Tuesday’s one-goal win over BBA.
MAU has been on a tear, out-scoring its opponents 30-2, improving its record from 2-4 to 9-4 in the process. What’s changed for the Patriots?
“We’re starting to believe in ourselves,” Molloy said after its third win in a row, a 4-0 victory over Burr and Burton in Manchester .
“I think it’s starting to come together,” Molloy said on the sidelines after shutting out the Bulldogs during that Oct. 5 match.
The Stratton Mountain game foreshadowed the impressive stretch for MAU. All four scores in that contest came off the foot of three key Patriots during the run.
Jake Tibbetts put two in the back of the net while Silas-Rella Neill and Nate Potter each logged one goal.
Tibbetts has three assists and five goals during the win streak. His solid play has been instrumental in MAU’s success.
Potter has been the constant offensively, scoring in each win and totaling an impressive 10 goals. Potter’s run includes a hat trick in a 6-1 win over Fair Haven on Oct. 12. The senior is a threat to put a tally on the scoreboard every time he’s on the pitch.
Rella-Neill has asserted himself as another scoring threat. As the Patriots struggled in the early part of the season, winning just two of its first six games, Rella-Neill’s role was strictly to set up the action. That remains a key part of the junior’s game, evident by the three assists he has during the winning streak, but he has also transformed into a goal scorer.
The midfielder got a taste of scoring in the Stratton game, and followed that with the best individual offensive performance MAU has seen this year in a 5-0 win over Otter Valley.
The contest was scoreless with less than 10 minutes to play; that’s when Rella-Neill took over. The midfielder scored an absurd four goals in a nine minute stretch powering his team to another victory.
The scoring from Rella-Neill points to MAU playing its best, according to Molloy.
“For him, you love the goals to come in, but he’s our table setter; any goals that we can get from him is a bonus.”
The midfielder has put eight balls into the back of the net since the winning streak started. The bonuses are plentiful for the Patriots right now.
Peter McKenna has been another constant for MAU. The junior forward wins most 50-50 balls that come his way and is another capable scorer, netting multiple goals during the run.
It’s not just the offense that is clicking, either. In its first six games, MAU allowed 16 goals. Over the past seven, the defense has solidified and allowed only two scores, shutting out opponents in four games.
Keeper Aiden Moscarello deserves his credit; he’s stopped five-plus shots in four of those wins. As the season churns on, Moscarello appears to be more comfortable protecting the goal for MAU.
The Patriots back line has also stepped up their play, limiting the amount of shots Moscarello is faced with game in and game out.
MAU goes for eight in a row Thursday in Hartford in their season finale.
If they are able to sustain their current level of play, the Patriots will be a tough test for any team come playoff time.