Sports

Hazen Girls and Lady Chargers Join Forces

by Ken Brown

HARDWICK – The Hazen Union girls’ soccer team was already on the upswing with a talented returning core and an incoming dynamic freshman class, but will further bolster its roster this fall with an agreed cooperative with Craftsbury Academy (CA).

Head coach Harry Besett enters his fifth season on the sidelines for the Lady Cats and has a lot to be optimistic about after two straight years of rebuilding a program that went to the Division IV state title match in 2020. His young team played their best soccer at the end of last season, winning four of their final seven matches to finish at 5-9-1. He lost four seniors to graduation, but returns one of the best midfielders in the state in Vermont all-state and First Team All-Mountain League selection Caitlyn Davison. Besett also returns senior leadership in Tessa Luther and Sarah Collier. His program also gets a shot in the arm with the addition of CA seniors Rachel Bailey, Haley Smith, and First Team All-Mountain League selection Sadie Skorstad. Skorstad was a junior captain last fall and led the Lady Chargers in scoring.

“I’ll be looking to all of the seniors to lead our big team socially and help keep us focused during practice sessions. Tessa and Caitlyn played in the middle of our formation last year and I will be looking for them to lead our play on the pitch and in our possession. The players that we added from CA came in after playing our preseason scrimmages, but they’ve already brought a good competitive spirit to our training sessions and I expect them to help make us a much more competitive team,” said Besett.

Hazen Union also returns junior Aster Watkevich and sophomore Bria Holbrook who were Mountain League Honorable mentions in 2022, as well as super sophomore Isabelle Gouin. The speedy forward scored seven times in her freshman campaign, earning her Second Team All-Mountain League honors. Besett’s squad will also get instantly more dynamic with the addition of a highly touted freshman class led by Taylor Thompson, Mya Lumsden, Kelsie Rivard, and Autumn Dailey. Five other players from CA (Savannah Boyce, Sophia Augsberger, Adelina Augsberger, Cedar Greiner, and Natalie Hill) complete the cooperative that give Besett 22 strong heading into the season, eliminating the depth problems he’s had to juggle the past two seasons. Besett’s squad has already competed in a preseason round robin tournament against West Rutland, Blue Mountain, and Randolph and he sees his team competing at a higher level within the division this fall. The competitiveness of the Division III rich Mountain League should better prepare the Lady Cats for what they’ll see in the postseason. Assisting Besett on the coaching staff this season will be former Lady Cat standout goalkeeper Alleigh Gabaree.

“We are definitely excited to start, have more expectation this season, with a little less dependence on development. Along with our returning experience, the four freshman that have come up are excellent athletes that fit in really well already to both of our scrimmages. I was very encouraged to see us fight back after conceding an early goal in our round robin and answer with two goals of our own. The ability to fight back is something that we’ve been missing the last couple of seasons and I’m excited for the competitive spirit we’ve shown already. We have two very tough matches to start our season, but it will be nice to get those under our belt early and it will be a good way to evaluate how our preseason preparation has gone and put us in line to be focused in our path to fighting to have a strong run in the post season!” said Besett.

The Lady Cats welcome high-powered Vergennes to town on Thursday to open their season and will stay at home for a tough match-up against Peoples Academy next Monday.

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