by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – Seniors led the way for the Hazen Union boys’ soccer team in their season opener over the weekend, with a thriller over Division II Lamoille.
Senior Xavier Hill buried the game winner with four minutes left in regulation to give the Wildcats a hard-fought 3-2 home win over the Lancers on Saturday. Fellow senior Dan des Groseilliers gave Hazen an early 1-0 advantage before Lamoille made it 1-1 heading into the break. Craftsbury Academy (CA) senior Dylan Washer wasted little time getting acclimated to his new teammates, crashing the penalty box with a header to make it 2-1 Hazen to open the second half. The Lancers converted a penalty kick to find the equalizer midway through the half, but Hill broke loose for the game-winner late to get the Wildcats’ season off on the right foot.
“The guys have been working hard in practice and it was great to see them bring that same energy to the first match and get a quality win against a Division II opponent. We still have a lot of work to do in getting more touches on the ball and playing wide to space to set up more crosses, but you can see the confidence growing with this young team. Our seniors really stepped up and have been doing a great job of leading our younger players and this was a great start,” said head coach Allison Paradee.
Joining Washer from CA on the Wildcat roster this fall is sophomore Grayson McNaughten and freshman Kosmos Gletos. Gletos was a talented runner for the Charger middle school track and field this past spring and McNaughten was impressive in net and on the mound for CA’s soccer and baseball teams in 2022. McNaughten will be the Wildcat goalkeeper this season in what Paradee described as a tough decision that ultimately will be best for the team. McNaughten was solid in his Hazen debut and Paradee loved the way her veterans Gabe Michaud, Eliot Rosendahl, Morgan Michaud, and Dan des Groseilliers communicated in the opener to solidify the Wildcats’ backline.
“Morgan got some invaluable experience working all season in goal with Tyler Rivard last year, but he is also such an asset on the field for our team with his versatility and athleticism. Putting Grayson in net and Morgan on the field gives our team the best chance to be successful. Grayson is a natural back there with his size and athleticism and Morgan along with Gabe, Dan, and Eliot give our defensive line a ton of experience and they did a great job back there in the opener. Tyler has also come back to give his time to work with Grayson and that is going to help him as we get ready to navigate a very tough schedule in the Capital,” said Paradee.
Hazen Union will get another full week of practice before their next match against a rebuilding Lyndon Institute program and Paradee likes the prospect of her young team starting the season with confidence before getting into the rigors of what will undoubtedly be a very challenging schedule.
“It’s going to be an extremely hot week coming up, so we will be mindful of how hard we go at it in the heat and will continue to work on the tactical side of the game and set pieces that we need to get better at. Our next match is going to give us even more opportunity to get our younger players some varsity experience and continue to work on advancing the ball on the ground and moving to space. I’m excited for this week to watch this young team continue to develop together,” said Paradee.
Hazen Union will host Lyndon Institute on Saturday afternoon and will host Division IV power Blue Mountain next Tuesday.