by Ken Brown
Northeast Kingdom – Hazen Union’s Xavier Hill and Twinfield-Cabot’s Meles Gouge put a bow on their stellar soccer careers last week with selections to the Vermont All-State Soccer team.
Gouge cemented himself as one of the true greats in program history with his third straight All-State selection. The senior midfielder/striker led the Trojan offense in scoring for a fourth straight season and finished his amazing high school career with more than 60 goals. He is also a three-time All-Mountain League First Selection and helped break a 21-year drought for the Trojan boys’ program with back-to-back trips to the Division IV Final Four in 2021 and 2022. The program hadn’t had a winning season or won a playoff game 10 years prior to Gouge taking the pitch but won 37 matches and was a perennial Division power in his four years under head coach Peter Stratman.
“I want to extend a huge congratulations to Meles on being selected to the Vermont All-State team again this year. It is a well-deserved honor! I’ve loved working with Meles these last four years. He is an exceptional young man with strong integrity and an incredible work ethic. He’s also a gifted soccer player!” said Stratman.
Hill added to his resume as an outstanding multi-sport athlete at Hazen, with a breakout senior campaign that saw him lead the team in scoring. The lanky lefty forward found the back of the net a career-high nine times for head coach Allison Paradee this past fall, helping the up-and-coming Wildcats get off to a torrid 5-1 start. Injuries hobbled Hazen and Hill down the stretch, but his sensational season earned him his first All-State selection. The senior captain adds to an already impressive resume that also includes a Division III state basketball title as a sophomore for Hazen and a pair of Vermont Dream Dozen selections as one of the best underclassmen basketball players in the state.
“The transition of Xavier up to the front line gave us a highly skilled scorer up top and his ability to use his head to redirect the ball into the net or to another teammate became a consistent trend. He became our leading scorer and he and this group of seniors really learned to build their footwork and passing to command the game, opposed to using brute strength and physicality. Xavier also helped lead a team that showed desire to just wanting to play the game of soccer. Sportsmanship wasn’t a huge concern for me with this group this past season,” said Paradee.
Local stars joining Gouge and Hill as All-State selections were: Peoples Academy’s Zander Waskuch, Daniel Manning, and Derek Baxter and Stowe’s Aaron Lepikko, Leo Jercinovic, Brock Roick, Cody Lilly, George Thompson, and Hugo Jercinovic. The Raiders dethroned the Division III defending champs by blanking the Wolves 3-0 in the title game for the program’s fourteenth title and first in four years. Lilly will be the only returning All-Stater next season for Stowe as they graduate eight seniors.