The VTC Mens soccer team left Friday for a 900-mile trip into Maine knowing their season -- marked so far by losses that felt unnecessary -- hinged on the weekend results. With a lopsided victory Saturday against U Maine Machias and a well-earned second win Sunday against Unity College, the Knights find themselves back in contention to make playoffs.
On Saturday the Knights outclassed the Machias squad, which graduated all but three players from their roster last season and have struggled this season. The Knights scored in the opening minutes and followed it with a steady supply of successful attacks for the next 90 minutes. To Machias' credit, the host players never quit playing hard and kept their composure in the face of what was surely a frustrating 90 minutes. The Knights used the match as an opportunity to rest some players for the next day's match and to try players in different positions. Both Senior Captain Phil Hepburn and Freshman Mikell McKenzie scored hat tricks. Freshman Goalkeeper Thomas Ferguson earned the shutout for the Knights.
On Sunday, the Knights continued what they started the day before and dominated the Unity team for the opening 45 minutes. With outstanding defensive play from all of VTC's lines, the ball rarely left the Knight's attacking half. Freshman Mikell Mckenzie beat two defenders and put VTC up 1-0 in the opening 10 minutes. With the withering attacks continuing, the Rams clustered their players in and around their 18 and spent much of the remainder of the half clearing balls away only to have the Knights regain possession, shift the point of attack, and go again at goal.
The second half was a more balanced affair with the Knights taking a more defensive posture to protect their 1-goal lead, and Unity -- also needing a win to stay in strong contention for playoffs -- played with increased urgency, sending long balls for their forwards to run onto. The Knights' back line, led by Xavier Robitaille and Andy Ruddell, proved up for the task. In a dramatic end, the match finished with a Ram corner kick that saw even the Ram goalie pulled into the attack. The goalie did indeed get his head on the ball, but the clock expired before either team could get a solid foot on the ricocheting ball. Goalkeeper Ferguson earned his second shutout of the weekend.
The two wins put the Knights back in contention for a playoff spot and puts their fate squarely in their own hands; if the Knights win their next two conference matches, regardless of what any other teams do, they advance. The Knights play a conference match this weekend against Hampshire at home.