By Mal Boright
Championship Saturday was familiar territory for the defending Division 1 champion Champlain Valley Union boys soccer Redhawks.
It was a strange place for the Colchester High Lakers (15-2-1) who won their only title some 25 years ago.
But it was the Lakers who scored the critical first goal of the game with six minutes and 15 seconds left in the first half, then carried on to a 2-1 victory and the 2013 championship Saturday afternoon on Burlington High School’s turf.
“That first goal was a game changer,” said CVU coach T.J. Mead Sunday. “We are comfortable playing when the score is zero-zero, not so comfortable playing from behind.”
The Colchester score came when Laker star Matt Goudie, who had arisen from a sickbed that morning, slammed the ball into the CVU cage from a scrum in front of goalie Brandon O’Connell, who had no chance. It was Goudie’s 21st score of the season.
“We would have been much better going into halftime tied,” Mead added.
The Redhawks stormed the Laker side of the field in the second half, only to be stymied by goalie Liam Mooney who came up with seven of his 11 saves over the closing 40 minutes.
He made a diving stop off CVU’s co-captain Joe Castano shortly after play resumed and followed that with a stop on co-captain Zack Evans’ free kick.
With 10:06 to go, Evans, with another free kick, found midfielder Patrick McCue in front of the net, but McCue’s header zoomed just past the right side of the cage.
With time running down (2:45 to play), the Lakers’ Brett Nelson fired a 25-yard free kick just under the crossbar past a leaping O’Connell to put Colchester up 2-0 and put a lock on the title.
CVU had a quick last gasp as Castano ran downfield and scored just seconds later.
The Redhawks, however, were unable to gain a sustained possession over the final two minutes as fouls and violations on both sides played a role.
As Mead told the Observer Sunday, it was an emotional game for both sides.
“So many Colchester and CVU guys have played together in club programs,” he said. “That and the championship game itself put added pressure on them.”
It was CVU’s second nudging in the crowning game in three years. Last fall, the Redhawks edged Burlington High in overtime for the championship.
While the disappointment fades, the Redhawks can look to 2014 when much of this year’s roster returns along with up and comers from a solid junior varsity unit.
The five graduating seniors, though, are key dudes. Goalie O’Connell (three saves Saturday and 13 shutouts during the season) is one. Also in their final games were co-captains Evans and Castano, attacker Tucker Shelley and midfielder-defender Nik Baya.