A Soccer Buzz at Woodstock
Unbeaten Wasps Making Their Mark on the Pitch
Woodstock boys soccer coach Doug Avellino talks to players during practice in Woodstock on Tuesda. Five games into the season, the team remains undefeated. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Bauer Neisner kicks on goal during an "around the world" exercise as head coach Doug Avellino, left, looks on at practice after school in Woodstock, Vt. on Tuesday, September 24, 2013. Five games into the season, the team is undefeated. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock — The Woodstock Union High boys soccer team didn’t necessarily expect to be as good as it is this year.
Now that the Wasps realize it, they could be difficult to stop.
From an experienced goalie tandem to a high-octane front line, undefeated Woodstock (5-0) is outscoring opponents 24-4 and appears poised for its strongest season in years.
After earning a rare top-five seed and reaching the Vermont Division II quarterfinals a year ago — it was just their second trip past the first round since 2001 — the Wasps have kept momentum rolling this season under second-year coach Tom Avellino.
Woodstock’s explosive start began with three straight shutout wins, including an 8-0 rout over traditionally strong Springfield in the season opener and a 3-0 victory at Division I Rutland. Each featured a hat trick by senior Dougie Avellino (eight goals, four assists).
Avellino was held scoreless during both of Woodstock’s next two games — both Proctor and Mill River had scouts at the Rutland game and worked hard to neutralize his son, Tom Avellino said — but it didn’t matter much as the Wasps used other weapons.
Sophomore Alex Crompton (five goals, three assists) and Connor McCarthy (three goals, three assists) helped Woodstock take both decisions to continue its torrid start.
“That’s the thing about this group: We’re balanced,” Tom Avellino said. “You have to play us evenly because we can hurt you in a number of different ways. It’s a talented group with a lot of good athletes who have a high soccer IQ.”
Crompton, who plays soccer year-round, scored twice in a 3-1 win at Proctor on Thursday before McCarthy set up the sophomore for the winner in Monday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Minutemen.
Blanketed early while playing forward against Mill River, Dougie Avellino drifted back to midfield to help set up the Wasps in transition. Woodstock’s leading scorer ended up with zero goals or assists for the second straight game, but he didn’t mind the outcome one bit.
That the Wasps’ 24 goals scored are 15 more than they had after five games last season is what matters most to the senior.
“I don’t mind not scoring, I just want to play wherever I can get the most quality touches,” the younger Avellino said. “Against Mill River, that was at midfield, so I was fine with that.”
Woodstock’s strengths begin in net, where senior Carter Pratt and junior Connor Fegard are splitting time for the second straight season. Both have made key saves.
“One’s a senior and one (Fegard) is 6-foot-3,” Tom Avellino said. “We don’t have a No. 1 goalie, but we don’t need one with those two.”
The Wasps have a mix of experience and youth on defense, where senior co-captain Ben Orr and junior Haven Lantz are teaming with sophomore stopper Cole Dalton, a transfer from Rhode Island, and freshmen talents Patrick Bald and Liam Van Harwarde.
The quartet has been difficult to penetrate while displaying surprising communication and chemistry.
“It’s a diverse group with a lot of different skill sets, but they’ve been able to play really well together and not really let much of anything through,” said coach Avellino. “Having them be so solid back there is huge for our confidence because it allows us to play more aggressively up the field. If we give the ball up, we’re not so worried (about the opponents scoring in transition).”
The Wasps are experienced at midfield, where returning lettermen Oliver Vicar (two goals, assist), Griffin Balser and Justin Forgione platoon with sophomore Curran MacDonald around McCarthy. a rock at central midfield.
At football-crazed Woodstock, the Wasps’ boys soccer outfit is starving for its own slice of glory.
While its gridiron brethren have gathered nine state titles in 14 trips to the state championship game, Woodstock’s boys soccer team has never won a state crown and hasn’t made the final since losing the last of three straight championship-game appearances in 1987.
The Wasps also lost in the semifinals three straight years in the late 1990s, but haven’t been past the quarterfinals since.
Whether or not this year’s team has enough to take the next step remains to be seen. Woodstock still has a pair of games against Route 4 rival Hartford (3-2), a matchup with D-I Mount Anthony (4-2) and rematches on the road at Springfield and Mill River, among other tests.
Tom Avellino expects his team to take on the challenges in stride.
“I don’t think we’re putting any pressure on ourselves; we’re just seeing where the season takes us,” the coach said. “It’s a good group of athletes. I have a lot of three-sport guys who I don’t have to worry about not showing up or having a bad practice. They’re well-studied players, and they know that anything can happen.”
While not getting ahead of themselves, the Wasps are enthusiastic about what the season may hold.
“We’re excited about the possibilities,” coach Avellino said. “We’re riding the wave right now, so to speak. I told the guys that we’re going to keep riding it for as long as we can, because you never know when it’s going to crash.”
At this rate, it won’t be any time soon.
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.