Catamounts begin title defense

In a game where the momentum was as back and forth as its windy conditions, the University of Vermont men’s soccer team could only manage a double-overtime tie with La Salle on Friday.

Vermont started strong, led by senior forward Lee Stephane Kouadio. In the game’s second minute, Kouadio took a great first touch from junior forward T.J. Gore on the left side and broke away to the goal, chipping it past La Salle goalÂkeeper Andrew Bernhard.

After Kouadio’s goal, Vermont was unable to capitalize on multiple chances, including sophomore midfielder Kyle Luethkehans’ header in the 15th minute. The ball appeared to go in but was stopped by a La Salle defender right at the goal line.

“We got off to a pretty good start but we stepped back a little too much,” head coach Jesse Cormier said.

In the 21st minute, La Salle was able to get the ball in the box and La Salle captain Brian Barry popped the ball past Vermont goalkeeper, Roger Scully, tying the game at one apiece.

“We just tried to come out and set the tone,” Kouadio said, “but we let them back in the game.”

Vermont’s starting lineup featured multiple freshmen, including shifty midfielder Mark Okoko. Okoko had a few great moves on the right sideline toward the end of the half but was unable to punch it in.

Another close call in the first half came when Kouadio had a step beyond the La Salle defense but ended up running into the goalkeeper, which resulted in a questionable yellow card.

“We had some chances but we got unlucky and couldn’t put it away,” Kouadio added.

Cormier said after the game that the Cats would use the luxury of the non-conference schedule to develop the less experienced underclassmen.

“We’re trying to get experience right now,” Cormier said. Cormier added that there was plenty of veteran leadership on the field throughout the game. “There’s no excuses, we have to be better,” Cormier said.

Neither team was able to gain momentum in the second half or the overtimes and the game ended in a tie.

“Obviously the non conference [schedule] is important,” Cormier said. “We have to grow, we have to learn, we have to get better in preparation for the conference.”

At 1-0-2, the Cats seem to be on the right track to defend their conference championship title from the 2007 season, but there is always room for improvement.

“We need to improve in a couple of areas,” Cormier said, “but we’ll be fine.”