by Ken Brown
THETFORD – The Hazen Union boys’ soccer team rebounded from their first loss of the season last week with an impressive road win against division rival Thetford Academy, improving to 4-1 on the season.
Senior captain Xavier Hill scored twice to lead the Wildcats to a resounding 4-1 road win over Thetford Academy last Wednesday.
Fellow senior captain Eliot Rosendahl also found the back of the net for Hazen, along with Craftsbury Academy’s (CA) Dylan Washer, who converted a penalty kick to finish up the scoring on the day. Washer and Hill lead the team with four goals apiece in their first four matches, giving the offense a shot in the arm that it’s been lacking the past few seasons.
“The transition of Xavier up to the front line and Dylan joining the team from CA, gives us a duo of highly skilled scorers up top. Xavier’s ability to use his head to redirect the ball into the goal has become a consistent trend. Together with our midfielders, especially Sully Laflam and Fenton Meyer, and with Ari Jurkiewicz and Seville Murphy making quality crosses in from the side, there seems to be a synergy going on that I haven’t seen on this team until this year,” said head coach Allison Paradee.
The upstart Wildcats have also been solid on the defensive end, with senior captain Dan des Groseilliers and sophomore Jurkiewicz collecting an assist apiece in the win against the Panthers. Craftsbury Academy sophomore keeper Grayson McNaughten has improved with every match in his first season with the Wildcats, piggybacking on a sensational freshman campaign with the Chargers. McNaughten had 11 stops in the win last week, allowing only a penalty kick to Henry Trage in the second half.
“Grayson is a very skilled goalkeeper. He’s got some natural instincts that are both similar and different from Tyler Rivard’s last season. The number of times he fearlessly comes out for the ball has prevented countless goals for our defense. It would have been a shutout if not for the PK. I think they all came away feeling proud not only of the score, but of the level of soccer they played the entire match,” said Paradee.
It’s the third win in the vaunted Capital League already for Paradee’s squad this season, who had a lot of holes to fill with the graduation losses of a talented senior core. Hazen Union has a tough schedule ahead of them, but the win over the Panthers on the road is significant, vaulting them ahead of them in the standings as the third ranked team in Division III.
“I feel like this team is finally moving away from using its size and strength to play the game of soccer. We are starting to transition into the mental and technical style of playing. The boys are now using smaller touches and skilled footwork, moving the ball up the field with elegance and creating openings for beautiful passes. Because of the work they’ve put in, the number of scoring opportunities we’ve created per game has almost doubled. This is definitely the style of soccer we’ve been working on getting to, since I took over the program. The Thetford win was one we were all very proud of. The team implemented a lot of the new skills my fellow coaches and I have been tirelessly working on with them,” said Paradee.
The Wildcats traveled to Lyndon Institute for a chance at a season series sweep on Tuesday and will welcome Division II North Country to Hudson Fields on Saturday for homecoming weekend.