Talented men’s soccer squad having a fine year, tied for first in GNAC standings

Sophomore Jeff Purdy moves the ball upfield in a recent game. Norwich Athletics photo.

Sophomore Jeff Purdy moves the ball upfield in a recent game.                                         Norwich Athletics photo.

As the leaves started to change and the fall sports season got underway, the Norwich Men’s Soccer team had many reasons to feel optimistic, according to their head coach.

“Our group is as good as it has been just in terms of being a positive group,” said Kyle Dezotell, head men’s soccer coach. “There’s no bad apples, it’s 28 guys who are legitimately on the same page.

With a 10-3-1 record to date, the team has definitely lived up to its coach’s billing, proving itself by amassing scores such as 5-1, 9-0 and 12-0, but also winning tough 1-0 games against rivals like Middlebury and Plattsburgh State. 

“We’re willing to work for each other,” said team captain Christian Albrecht, 22, a senior Civil/Environmental Engineering major from Albuquerque, N.M. “That’s nice to see because it can be easy to get down on each other when things aren’t going well.”

Despite losing the previous season’s captain and goal keeper, the team has been able to get sizable contributions from some new faces. Freshman Ethan Melia was named Greater New England Athletic Conference Player of the week in week two for his contributions and freshman Stefan Skoff has also been getting time as the team’s goalkeeper.

“We’ve had a really good freshman recruiting class,” Dezotell said, later adding that “Stefan Skoff is amazing. He will be good as any that we’ve had as long as he stays healthy and keeps working.”

One of the biggest challenges the freshmen face in making the adjustment from high school to college is being able to play more dynamically. Ethan Melia, 18, a freshman Health Sciences major from Shrewsbury, Mass. commented. “Here it’s different, everyone’s got speed, so it’s (about) moving well off the ball and trying to get defenders to double-guess themselves.”

Along with having a talented freshman class, the team also has a strong supply of upperclassmen. This year’s team is returning all of its varsity players except for three members from last year’s team.

“In terms of skill, we have probably the best team I’ve ever seen here,” Albrecht said. “We have some really good goal scorers.”

“We still have our leading scorer from last year as well as one of our defensemen who was awarded with the best defensemen in the GNAC (Greater North East Athletic Conference) last year,” added 19-year-old Chase Hainey, a communications major and sophomore from Fryeburg, Maine.

The depth at positions this year is one of the team’s strengths as well. With constant competition to get playing time, players have to put in maximum effort in practice.

“If someone has an off day at practice, there’s someone waiting right behind you to jump on your starting spot,” Melia said. “Everyone has the capability to start so it’s always a grudge match at practice.

The soccer team’s goal every season is to win the GNAC and make the NCAA tournament. However, at the beginning of the season there is a focus on just getting better every day and trying to take it one game at a time.

“We’re really taking it game by game at this point,” Dezotell said. “We’ve given ourselves a little bit of a mixture in our early season schedule. Some games we should win and some games we maybe shouldn’t win on paper.”

With an end goal of winning the GNAC though, Norwich will have some tough in-conference competition. “Our in-conference competition usually comes from Lasell (College), Johnson and Wales, and Albertus Magnus,” Albrecht mentioned. They’re always tough games and games we have to get up for.”

With five games left before championship play begins, Norwich looks to keep their high- powered offense going through the end of the season. Their 3.73 goals per game is eighth best in the country.

Norwich senior captain Christian Albrecht (Albuquerque, N.M.) scored his second goal of the season to lift the Norwich to a 1-0 win over Albertus Magnus on Saturday night on Sabine Field and continue the team’s fine run.

Albrecht headed home a corner kick service from freshman Ethan Melia (Shrewsburg, Mass.) in the 26th minute to provide the game’s only offense. Freshman goalkeeper Stefan Skoff (San Jose, Calif.) made the goal stand up, making seven saves to earn his fifth shutout of the season.

With the victory, Norwich improved to 10-4-1 overall and continued to keep pace with Johnson & Wales at the top of the league standings with both teams sporting a 6-1 GNAC record. The win also marked the 10th straight season that Norwich has won at least 10 games under head coach Kyle Dezotell.

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