Second half goals propel BBA to quarterfinals
MANCHESTER — When asked about team goals at the start of their season, many coaches point to hosting a playoff game as incredibly important, knowing the advantage of a hometown crowd and easy travel.
The Burr and Burton boys soccer team has hosted Division I playdowns in its two previous seasons, but both resulted in the Bulldogs' elimination.
Tuesday afternoon, the No. 8 seed BBA squad bucked that trend, with a 5-1 win against No. 9 North Country at Taylor Field to advance to the state quarterfinals.
Going into halftime with the game knotted at 1-1, the Bulldogs realized how important it was to get off to a fast start out of the break.
Senior Johnny Miceli did the honors of putting BBA ahead with 34:19 left in the second half. Miceli spotted a clean opportunity from a bit outside the box and struck a perfect ball to the right side of the net.
Falcons keeper Brett Roy was frozen on the kick and didn't have much of a play on the ball as it found the back of the net.
The Bulldogs struck again with 29:38 to play when River DeFelice ripped a hard shot at Roy, which the senior keeper handled, but couldn't get a good grasp on. The ball trickled around the front of the goal and Jayden Bloom corralled the loose ball and put it home.
BBA continued to open up the game from there. With 19:53 to play, Bloom struck a perfect corner kick that found Duncan Chamberlain's head for a header goal. On the ensuing possession, just 24 seconds later, DeFelice scored the final Bulldog goal of the day.
BBA dominated the second half and produced goals in many different ways, something that could make it dangerous as the playoffs progress.
Whether it was off a set piece, a rebound or just a perfectly struck ball from outside the box, the Bulldogs were relentless in their attack.
"We've done well to execute on our set pieces. That was a great ball to Duncan in the box," said BBA coach Pete Mull. "Our two forwards, [Jayden Bloom and River DeFelice], were great today. River DeFelice is going way up with his level of play."
DeFelice and Bloom have been quite the potent pair up top for the Bulldogs during the latter portion of the season. Bloom has eight goals in BBA's last five games, while DeFelice has six in the last four games.
The first half of Tuesday's matchup was very back and forth and both teams were shot out of a cannon to start. Within the first minute of the game, Niall Monahan made a run down the left side of the field and spotted Bloom, who was cutting toward the net on the right. Monahan made a perfect cross on the ground and Bloom executed to put BBA ahead.
North Country answered right back with its lone tally three minutes later, when junior forward David Gratton scored.
The Falcons had a much stronger attack in the first half than they did after the break.
Controlling more possession, they tested BBA's back line and the Bulldogs were mostly up to the task.
Mull has pointed to the importance of Luke Lehmann in the center back role all season long and he lauded the junior's efforts once again on Tuesday.
"Luke Lehmann does a great job getting everyone set in the back. He had some great recovery runs today," Mull said.
BBA senior keeper Liam Day made some great saves during the first half, including a couple of nice plays where he had to come out of goal to turn away North Country.
Day had nine saves and was lifted in the second half when BBA had the game well in hand.
Junior varsity keeper Will Morell was strong in relief, making four great saves to keep the Falcons at bay when they were threatening late.
With Tuesday's win, the Bulldogs advance to play No. 1 CVU, who received a bye through the playdown round.
BBA came up on the losing end of a 6-0 decision in its opener against the unbeaten Redhawks, but the Bulldogs feel like the team they're bringing to Hinesburg on Friday is a lot better than the one CVU previously saw.
"We're hoping we can catch them by surprise," Mull said. "A few years ago, we played them in the second round and kept the game scoreless until halftime. Hopefully, we can do the same and force the game to penalty kicks [on Friday]."
That matchup in the 2016 D-I quarterfinals ended with the Redhawks winning 4-0, en route to a semifinal defeat at the hands of eventual-champion Burlington.
BBA looks to pull off the major upset today in Hinesburg.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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