Second-half comeback sends Arlington to title game
ARLINGTON — It might not be the 2004 Boston Red Sox, but Tuesday night will remain in Arlington's memories for a long time.
The boys soccer team trailed by two into the second half, but scored three times in the final 30 minutes to beat No. 7 West Rutland, 3-2, and return to the Division IV final for the second year in a row.
"I told them at halftime, if you settle down, focus on the game of soccer you know how to play, you're going to go out there and even this game up," said Arlington coach Todd Wilkins. "I had confidence in them to do it, they possessed and passed the ball and they had opportunities in the second half."
Down 2-0, Arlington had to get something and it came from the foot of Alberto Lopez. As West Rutland packed in its defense with the advantage, Lopez found a little space and tapped it past West Rutland goalie Kyle Laughlin with 31:11 left to make it 2-1.
"I told the other coaches that as soon as we score, the confidence will get a boost and we just went into attack," Wilkins said.
West Rutland almost added a third goal shortly after Lopez's score, but somehow it stayed out of the Arlington goal as the score stayed 2-1. Taylor Therriault nearly had a goal of his own but it was disallowed on an offsides ruling.
"I knew we weren't scoring on Kyle from 20, 25 yards out, he's too good," Wilkins said. "We had to make the inside run and get the through ball and Alberto created the opportunity for himself."
Five minutes later, as Arlington continued to press, they found the equalizer. Lopez passed to Dominic Whalen, who went to turn upfield. The ball, Laughlin and Whalen all got to the same spot at the same time, but Whalen tipped it into the net to tie the game with 17:18 left. After the goal, Whalen stayed down on the turf with a minor injury.
"Dominic is such a underrated player, his work ethic is unbelievable," Wilkins said. "He will sacrifice his body to score that goal. He looked at the scoreboard when I got out there to [make sure he was OK] and he [didn't even know] he had scored. He went in as hard as he could knowing there's a 200-pound goalkeeper coming at him."
Now tied, the momentum was clearly with the Eagles as West Rutland coach Dillon Zaengle tried to pump up his team.
"Once we got the two goals, we went into pack it in mode," Zaengle said. "Any time we played a top team this year, we want to protect the lead. Kyle is one of the top goalies and he kept us in games this year. We weren't able to keep possession up front and after 70 minutes, we broke down."
The comeback was complete with 10:45 left as Lopez maneuvered his way through a pair of West Rutland defenders and scored to make it 3-2, Eagles.
"At halftime, [Wilkins] was encouraging us, telling us we have the skills to come back," Lopez said. "We needed to play our game [in the second half]."
West Rutland pushed up to try and tie the game themselves, but the Arlington side was up to the challenge and when the final horn blew, the Eagles rushed to midfield to celebrate.
Laughlin had a tremendous game for Westside, stopping 10 shots. The first one, about two minutes in, was a diving stop on a 20-yard shot.
That paid off on the offensive end, when Mac Perry hit a hard shot low that Arlington goalie had for a second but it went through his hands to give the Horde the lead.
Less than a minute later, Tyler Serrani doubled it, placing a free kick beautifully around the near post for a 2-0 lead.
"We played them in the first game of the year, we won 2-0, but we really dominated that game," Wilkins said. "I tried to stress that [West Rutland] is a good team, with a good coach and playing good soccer. The minute they scored, it was like they were shocked. I had to get to halftime to talk them out of it and get them to focus."
In the end, Arlington will face No. 1 Twin Valley — 3-1 winners over Rivendell — on Saturday in the state championship at Bellows Falls.
The teams played twice this year, with the Wildcats winning one and tying the other [the final of the John Werner tournament].
"Twin Valley is one of those opponents that it will be a battle," Wilkins said. "Buddy [Hayford] is one of the best coaches in Vermont, his record shows that. It's a huge accomplishment and an honor to make it back [to the final]. It's a testament to the kids and how they've dug deep this year."
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