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Games of the year: #5-1

Counting down the best contests of 2021
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 8:29 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - With just one full day left in 2021, we’re wrapping up our year in review series and our countdown of the best games of the year involving our area teams. Here’s the top 5.

At #5, we head down to Manchester for November’s D4 boys soccer final. Rivendell was hunting a second title in five years while MSJ was chasing its first ever. Phenomenal individual efforts the name of the game in this one, as Tyler Corey would stake the Green Wave out to a lead, dancing through the Raptor defense. But on the other end Josiah Welch doing the same, this game level at the break. We go final 10 minutes and this one got crazy. Kyle Carter putting Rivendell on top with this free kick, but Ryan Jones was not going to let the Mounties lose. A pair of goals in the last 8 minutes, the second coming with under a minute to play, would hand MSJ the 3-2 win and their first championship.

A number four, it was a long odyssey in July for the Vermont Lake Monsters to eventually set a Future’s League record with 14 straight wins, but the final one was the hardest to get. Vermont began a scheduled seven-inning doubleheader against the Brockton Rox on July 20th, but after the Monsters fell behind 3-0 in the early innings, Mother Nature played the role of the governor calling in a last minute stay of execution for the streak. A massive rain and thunder storm would halt the proceedings, forcing a resumption in the third inning the following day. After getting one back, Vermont would rally to tie the game at 3-3 in their final at bat. Colchester’s Tom Vesosky and Andrew Bergeron would drive in a pair to force extras, and with the bases loaded in the 8th, Chris Brown smashed an opposite field grand slam to right, handing the Monsters a 7-3 win and a new league record 14-game win streak.

Two of the final three come to us from Virtue Field, starting with soccer. The UVM women had never won an America East tournament title, but in November, they hosted UNH in the final. This was a nervy affair, neither team could find the back of the net for nearly 80 minutes. But with just over ten minutes left in regulation, the Cats found their hero. Bailey Ayer sent one into the box for Cricket Basa, and the Montpelier native made no mistake slotting it home. Lydia Kessel would be called upon to make one huge stop before the end of the game, but in the end Vermont would hold on for the 1-0 win and their first conference title.

At #2, a wet and wild game would turn into a Winter wonderland in the first ever D1 football championship to feature two Chittenden County schools. Essex and CVU would trade blows in the first half, Jack Sumner and Joshua Brown finding the endzone to keep the Hornets and Redhawks knotted up. But just before the break, Malaki Valgean had probably the most visually appealing play of the year. He hauled it in and dragged his defender with him through the snow to put Essex on top headed to the locker room. The two teams would again trade touchdowns, and trailing by 8 late in the fourth, Max Destitio would pick out Eric Guczek-Nasab sliding into your screen for six. CVU wouldn’t get the two point conversion, forcing the Redhawks to kick the onside...and somehow they got it! Colin Zouck the recovery to give CVU one final chance, but on fourth and long near midfield, Destito’s desperation heave to Aiden Miller would fall to the turf thanks to the reach of Jacob Reyome. Essex took it 21-19 to claim their first title since 2009.

And at #1, the UVM men’s lacrosse team would capture its first ever America East regular season and tournament titles in 2021, but the first wouldn’t have happened without a May Day miracle against Stony Brook. This was a back and forth affair the whole way: Vermont jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and the Seawolves rallied to tie. This pattern continued, but after David Closterman scored on this leaping effort to put Vermont up 9-8, the visitors would finally seize the initiative. Three straight tallies would give Stony Brook a two-goal edge with Chris Pickell doing much of the work. Closterman was a man possessed in this one though, his fifth and sixth tallies of the afternoon would even the game back up at 12-12, and with just over four minutes to play, his assist to Thomas McConvey put Vermont back in front. But with just 8.5 seconds showing on the clock, Pickell again made his presence felt with the bouncer to even things up at 13. Surely we were headed for overtime...Now full disclosure, the clock was definitely a bit late getting started off the ensuing faceoff, but Tommy Burke would win it to himself. The Cats got it to Closterman, he shoveled to Liam Limoges...and Limoges caught it and threw it behind the back all in one motion to beat the buzzer! An unbelievable moment in an unbelievable season, Vermont’s 14-13 dagger earning the Cats a share of the conference title and the top spot in our games of the year countdown.

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