BRATTLEBORO -- There is no question in coach Buddy Hayford’s mind that his team has some of the most active and potent midfielders in boys varsity soccer today.
And who could argue him with numbers like these?
With a 10-1 record including seven shutouts, while giving up only six goals all season, and coming off a huge 9-0 victory over Windsor, the Twin Valley Wildcats have earned the top spot in the Division IV rankings.
"We’ve got a strong central midfield," said Hayford. "We don’t get hung up on terminologies in correlation to an individual position. I like to give our midfielders plenty of free rein."
The playmakers Hayford speaks of are Colin Lozito, Tony Tarr, and Dal Nesbitt, who make up the team’s golden triangle at the center. "They are certainly the engine that makes the team tick," said the coach.
Lozito, with tremendous speed and agility, has racked up 13 goals on the season. Tarr, more of an attacking player, has tallied nine. Nesbitt, formidable both on defense and the attack, has tucked away four of the Wildcats’ 48 goals on the season. Hunter Therrien (5 goals) and Nick Nilson (6) finish out Twin Valley’s top scorers, respectively.
"We have spread it around nicely," said Hayford. "Multiple guys who can put the ball to the back of the net. This means we don’t have to rely on any one player--a luxury for sure.
Hayford said the most memorable game thus far was during a September win against Leland and Gray, when freshman Nilson nailed a shot just as the final horn went off to end the first overtime.
"It doesn’t get any more exciting than that," said Hayford. "We are rivals to boot."
The team’s only loss was handed to them by Springfield in the last five minutes of the final round of the John Werner Tournament, held late September.
2011 was a rough year for the Wildcats. A series of bad spells, from season-ending injuries to car accidents, haunted Twin Valley as they ended their season with an 8-8-1 record. Now a core group of juniors have become the brawn behind Hayford’s brain.
"The guys knock the ball around as well as any team I’ve ever coached," he said.
On defense, keeper Sam Molner has stonewalled his share of strikers, giving up only .54 goals against average, per game. "We take pride it that," said Hayford. "Defense is what wins championships, no matter the sport. Molner is exceptional, but he has got some terrific defense in front of him. I also want to tip my hat to Kyle Murdoch. He played the first three games of the season when Molner was out. We always have more than one backup plan."
A cool-headed decision maker who can handle pressure, Twin Valley’s Eli Park has been invaluabe to the team as sweeper. Close by is Cade Nesbitt, the team’s stopper. His steady eye continues to protect the ‘Cat backfield from potential threats.
"Park and Nesbitt are intelligent defenders," said Hayford. "The outside back positions have basically been done by committee, and it has worked out for the two of them. You can expect a strong performance from them on any given day."
The Wildcats have three games ahead of them in the regular season. They travel to Stratton on Saturday for a matchup that will take place during the town’s homecoming weekend. On Tuesday, Twin Valley heads to Townshend to take on Leland and Gray. The team’s closer takes place a week from Friday at an away game against defending state champs Proctor.
"These games are great tuneups for the state tournament," said Hayford. "I’m glad we’ve got three difficult games to end the season, instead of a couple of cupcakes. It brings our players back to earth, and that’s what we need right now."
David Aquino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.