Sports

Wildcats at Home for Playoffs Despite Slide

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by Ken Brown

STOWE – The Hazen Union boys’ soccer team struggled offensively against high powered Stowe and Montpelier last week, wrapping up their regular season at 6-8 and earning the seventh seed in the upcoming Division III tournament.

Cody Lilly scored twice to power Stowe past the Wildcats 5-0 at home last Wednesday.

Hugo Jercinovic added a goal and an assist for the Raiders, who broke a scoreless tie late in the first half to take a 2-0 lead into halftime.

Wyatt Lilly added a score in the second half as Stowe pulled away, improving to 12-1-1 on the season.

Brock Roick made five stops to earn the seventh shutout of the season for the Raider defense. Grayson McNaughten recorded nine saves in the loss for Hazen.

Stowe will enter the Division III playoffs as the top seed. The eight-time state champions have won 26 games the past two seasons and will look to improve upon their Final Four appearance in 2022.

Montpelier wrapped up the top seed in Division II on Friday, handling the Wildcats 4-0 under the lights behind a goal and two assists from Owen Lathrop.

Tommy Mills, Micah Hessler, and Josiah Phillips chipped in with a goal apiece for the Solons, as they improved to 11-1-1.

Brio Levitt made one save to earn his tenth shutout of the season for the defending Division II champs. McNaughten made nine stops in the loss for Hazen.

“I’m so impressed with how the boys competed against both Stowe and Montpelier. They’ve been pulling together all of the elements that we’ve been working on tirelessly in the practices over the past two months. Communication has improved, as well as fluidity on the field, give and go passes, and maintaining possession through checking to the ball. Both matches had large chunks of time where we held their offense down and even maintained more control in the game than our opponents,” said head coach Allison Paradee.

After a hot 5-1 start to the season, the Wildcats have lost seven of eight against opponents in the rugged Capital League with a combined record of 59-20-10. Despite the slide, Hazen Union still earned their first home playoff match since 2021, where they advanced to the Division III quarterfinals. Paradee’s squad is definitely battle tested and she likes the vibe and health of her team heading into the postseason.

“Going into Wednesday’s playoff game, we will be focusing on passing the ball up the field, connecting passes, and getting lots of scoring opportunities. I’ll have a nearly full bench again and we need to play smart and cohesive as a team. If we can do that, we’ll earn a spot against PA or Springfield this weekend. With how well this team has been playing lately, there’s no doubt in my mind that we can compete into the final games of this tournament,” said Paradee.

The seventh ranked Wildcats will host tenth-seeded Green Mountain on Wednesday afternoon at Hudson Fields. If they advance, they would likely face second-seeded Peoples Academy on Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the Division III playoffs.

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