ESSEX – Todd Boisjoli provided another overtime goal. Champlain Valley and Essex played another 1-0 game.
And the high school boys soccer rivals added yet another exciting chapter to their must-see annual showdowns.
For the second time this season, Boisjoli delivered the extra-session strike against Essex, sending the Redhawks to a 1-0 triumph on Saturday.
Cooper O’Connell set up the winner 2 minutes, 54 seconds into the first overtime, slipping a through ball behind the Essex defense for Boisjoli, who collected the ball for a breakaway, dribbled around the goalie and tapped in the winner before being mobbed by teammates.
Just three days after falling late in regulation at South Burlington, CVU (11-1) was on the winning side of a tense Metro battle. Essex falls to 9-3, the losses to CVU bookending a seven-game winning streak.
“This was an incredible match,” CVU coach Katie Mack said. “I’m glad we pulled it out. We were hungry for it.”
My three thoughts from the latest Essex-CVU installment:
CVU closes out victory
While Wednesday’s late-in-regulation loss to South Burlington conjured up memories from last year, it also revealed an eyebrow-raising trend for CVU against league opponents: Finishing games.
The Redhawks couldn’t hold a lead against South Burlington in last year’s semifinals. And this past week, despite a bevy of chances, they couldn’t knock in that first goal in their return trip to South Burlington.
“In practice, we talked a lot of about closing out games,” Mack said.
Mack’s Redhawks responded in the final five minutes of regulation Saturday, and appeared to have the go-ahead strike in the final minute.
O’Connell’s arcing free kick from about 40 yards out took a bounce inside the 6-yard box and skipped past Essex goalie Paul Federico (four saves). CVU’s celebration, however, was brief. The linesman — Essex hired a three-man officiating crew — raised his flag, disallowing the goal.
Mack said the explanation relayed to her was a CVU player, in an offside position on the setpiece, interfered with Federico’s path to the ball.
“They used that to inspire them. We weren’t going to close out the game in the final minute and then lose in overtime,” Mack said. “That desire to win is a really big motivational force with this team.”
CVU pressed in overtime. And O’Connell, who had been heavily marked for much of the second half, collected a ball at midfield, turned and threaded a ball to Boisjoli, who sidestepped new Essex goalie Brandon Bean, in for the injured Federico, and finished.
“Great players find ways and he found some space and he set someone else up to score,” said Essex coach Jake Orr of O’Connell.
Essex plays its ‘best game of year’
Despite the loss, Orr had this assessment of his team:
“That was our best game of the year,” the first-year coach said. “I was extremely proud of the way my players played. The scoreboard doesn’t always reflect effort.”
The final 15 minutes of the first half was a good example of the Hornets’ play. Extended possession with short, crisp passes in the midfield created dangerous opportunities for the Hornets.
One such sequence opened up a cross to Alex Benevento, whose glancing header never made its way to goal. And on another pressure, a failed CVU clearance spilled toward the top of the 18-yard box, where Aidan Whitney’s shot lofted a foot over the cross bar.
“We’ve been working a lot in practice trying to swing the ball to the both sides and really use the middle to switch and have our central midfielders working together to play short passes,” Orr said.
And for stretches, it befuddled CVU, a program known for possession.
“We really struggled to stay organized at times, especially the last 15 minutes of the first half,” Mack said.
Another Essex-CVU classic
I was there when Essex’s Paul Bianchi netted the game-winning goal with 1:03 left in a 2009 regular-season game. I was also on scene when CVU’s Shane Haley raced through for the breakaway strike in the second overtime of the 2013 semifinals.
Regular season or playoffs, Essex-CVU seems to always deliver.
“A classic Essex-CVU game,” Orr said. “We talked about the rivalry before the game and how much tradition there is with Essex and CVU.”
After two 1-0 overtime results, 2015 served up more memories for local soccer aficionados to recall.
Aside from the disallowed goal and the Boisjoli winner, here are two more highlights from Saturday:
•In the first half, O’Connell cut through the Essex defense on a long run from midfield, but was taken down on the fringe of the 18-yard box for a free kick. No card was handed out and the setpiece was wasted.
•Midway through the second half, Essex’s Evan Friedman raced onto a through ball and his shot, partially deflected by CVU goalie Aidan Johnson (four saves), appeared headed to goal until Joe Parento cleared it.