NEWPORTâ€“With heavy rains falling and field conditions poor at best, North Country (3-7-1) battled through and defeated BFA St. Albans (2-8-1) 1-0 in a much needed win.
"We are feeling great," said coach James McKenny. "The boys deserved it, bouncing back from Mount Mansfield. Coach (Stanley) and I see these guys every day and we know what they put in to it and it is rewarding to see them get the win in front of the home crowd."
Both teams have had a trying season, coming into the match with identical 2-7-1 records, and with play-off seedings looming, it was a must win game for two teams fighting for a play-off spot.
BFA had the first good chance of the contest when Alex Fyles sent a shot just wide of the Falcon net early in the contest.
After that North Country stepped up their game.
Six minutes in, Ryan Paul unleashed a bomb that Bobwhite goalkeeper Jacob Zemianek was able to tip.
The rebound fell in front of the goalie, but the Falcons could do nothing with it.
North Country came right back at the BFA net as Kody Halikas fed Ruffie Palin in front, but the shot went high.
Zach Tweed had his first crack at the Bobwhite net, but Zemianek was there with a nice stop.
BFA put four shots on the Falconsâ€™ goalie, testing Logan Fortier, but the big keeper was ready for anything on this night.
It was a fast paced half, full of of booming kicks from Fortier, speedy play by the midfielders, and some fantastic ball control, which given the conditions, was quite surprising.
"In conditions like this you have got to keep it simple and not get too fancy said McKenny.
In the second, North Country played one of the most inspiring halves of soccer that I have seen this year.
The crowd was very vocal, standing in the pouring rain and supporting their team as they looked for the go-ahead goal.
Palin and Halikas hooked up again two minutes into the second and nearly accomplished that mission.
The pair came in on a two-on-one, but the BFA defender stopped the rush.
Palin regrouped, went wide right and blasted one towards the goal that just missed.
Ten minutes later they hit pay dirt.
The Falcons were awarded a direct kick about forty yards out and to the right of the Bobwhite net.
Zach Tweed was called upon to make an important free kick for the second straight game.
Last time, he scored the tying goal against MMU.
This time out it would be for the lead.
Zach sent a bending shot head high at the net and it deflected off of the BFA netminder's hand and dropped into the back of the cage.
"I just tried to put it on target and make something happen, maybe a head ball, but it went through the keeper's hands," said Tweed about the play.
"What a great goal," McKenny said. "He hit it far post and the keeper barely got a hand on it. Zach is a guy you wasn't behind the ball on a free kick."
Now it was matter of holding the lead for the next 28:16.
It wasn't easy, but they did.
Fortier was solid, the defense was strong, and Palin had an outstanding remainder of the contest despite being relentlessly abused by the Bobwhites.
Ruffie took a handful of cheap shots, but soldiered on and the Falcons earned their third win of the season.
McKenny was full of praise for his players after the game.
"Kody Halikas played great, Zach Tweed, Adam Viens and Travis Tetreault, they all go eighty minutes and they go hard."
What also stood out for North Country in this game was their ability, for the most part, to stay level headed when things got chippy.
Said Tweed, "This is a game that we needed to win, and I think this is the first time we put together eighty solid minutes the whole way through."
The boys will take the momentum from this game into their next contest, a tough match up with CVU on Saturday morning in Hinesburg at 10:00.