by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – In what has been a tumultuous 2020 for most, Hazen Union welcomes back high school athletics next week as both the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams are scheduled to take the pitch in their season openers.
Both squads have been practicing since school reopened in the second week of September and anticipate a green light later this week from the Vermont Department of the Health, allowing schools to move to Stage III of the reopening process and the return of high school athletics. Hazen Athletic Director John Sperry is excited for his student athletes to get back to competition after losing the entire spring season to the global pandemic.
“Everyone is doing a great job so far of following the guidelines and protocols and at this point I would say I’m more excited than nervous that the kids finally get back to doing what they love to do. It’s been a tough year for everyone and I think it’s important for the kids mentally to get back to some sense of normal. We’ve already lost a spring sports season that these kids can’t get back. Everyone involved needs to be diligent wearing masks, washing our hands, and practicing social distancing to ensure that the fall sports season is a success safety-wise to pave the way for us to have a chance play sports this coming winter,” said Sperry.
On the boys’ side, head coach Talan Bryant returns to the sidelines after a year hiatus. Kyle Behrsing filled in last season, guiding the Wildcats to a 12-4 record and a postseason run that ended in a heartbreaking overtime loss in the quarterfinals to Peoples Academy. It was highest win total for a Hazen team in eleven seasons, earning him Mountain League Coach-of-the-Year honors.
The Wildcats lost a trio of All-Staters to graduation in Cody Davison, Wyatt Bellavance, and Julius Rosendahl. Seniors Isaiah Baker and Cody Hall will be leaned on to lead the offense, while Ethan Shopland returns to anchor the defense after shining in net for the Wildcats as a junior. Twenty-five players came out for Bryant’s squad this fall, giving him a lot of depth to make another deep run in the postseason. Bryant led the Wildcats to the Division 3 title game in 2014 and has enjoyed winning seasons in five of his six years at the helm.
Hazen opens its season on the road next Wednesday at Richford and will stay on the road in a matchup with rival Danville next Saturday. The Wildcats’ home opener is scheduled for October 6 against Oxbow.
Head coach Harry Besett returns for his second season to lead the Lady Cats after guiding a very young team to a 4-11 record and a first-round loss to Twin Valley in the Division 4 playoffs. Besett will have to replace defensive stalwarts Zoe Hislop and Joey Hall, who anchored the defense last season and earned All-Mountain League honors. Senior Natalie Geoffroy will be lead the defense in the backfield after a stellar junior campaign and Macy Molleur returns for the offense after leading the Lady Cats in scoring a season ago.
Besett will have more versatility in net and on the field with a healthy Alleigh Gabaree and sophomore Emily Kimball, but they will struggle with depth with only 14 student-athletes on the team, including two eighth graders. Hazen is scheduled to open their season next Tuesday at Enosburg and will stay on the road to face BFA-Fairfax next Friday. Their home opener is scheduled for October 7 against Missisquoi.