Mens soccer bows out after stellar season

Freshman midfielder Azma Issa looks downfield on the pitch. Picture by Norwich University

The Norwich University men’s soccer team enjoyed a record-breaking regular season after an extremely hot start.
The Cadets had a great season both in the GNAC and out, finishing with a record of 11-3-4, and making it to the semifinals of the GNAC tournament.
Although the team took a hit when last year’s class graduated, the freshman class did an excellent job of filling the spots that were needed.
“Anytime you have a lot of new player’s things are going to be different than the previous year,” Said Adam Pfiefer, the men’s soccer head coach. “I think guys pushed last year to start focusing on their daily jobs and have the focus at each practice and each game at the same levels at all times.”

This helped the team moving into the first week of the regular season as Norwich downed Northern Vermont University with a 4-0 victory. Norwich goal keeper Brendan Germano, a senior cyber security major from Monroe Township, N.J., held the visitors of Northern Vermont to zero goals on the day.
“People stepping up and everyone else doing their job is key to our success,” said Germano. “We had a big problem last year with kids just not performing to their ability which started to hurt the team but that wasn’t the case this year.”
In fact, Germano was stellar in goal for the Cadets this season with 61 saves on the year. He credits his success to the “chemistry” of his team and resilient winning attitude.
The Cadets then left their next two contests with a tie, before coming back to defeat SUNY Maritime (NY) by a score of 3-1. The team’s first real test came on Sept. 12, when they opened up conference play traveling to New Haven, Conn., ultimately defeating Albertus Magnus by a score of 3-1.

Junior midfielder Dashiell Vermilya trying to get past a Maine Maritime player. Picture by Norwich University.

According to Matt Hilton, a senior psychology major from Colorado Springs, Conn. “It was just a collective effort and we needed to keep it going moving forward.”
Hilton is a leader on and off the field serving as a team captain and mentor for the younger guys in the program. Although he knows his numbers weren’t that flashy, he knows his leadership alone means a lot to the team.
According to Chris Clain, a senior psychology major from Proctor, Vt., team chemistry has played key roles in the teams’ high-powered offense. “We had 14 freshmen come in and then we have a bunch of seniors still here, and with the support from our coaching staff we’ve really come together as one group.”
Norwich kept on dominating teams through the month of September, picking up victories over Anna Maria, Castleton, Rivier, and a key victory over Johnson & Wales (RI) in that span.
Germano earned his second GNAC Goalkeeper of the Week award, after winning his first in the season’s inaugural week, on the following Monday afternoon. Germano stopped all five shots he faced on the week to post back-to-back shutouts to lead Norwich to a pair of huge GNAC victories over Regis and Johnson & Wales.
The Cadets did not have their first loss of the season until they faced off with the defending champs Saint Joseph’s (Maine), a rematch of the previous year conference final, as Norwich was defeated by a score of 3-0.
This was not going to be all for the Cadets after this one though. The week after the loss the Cadets bounced back by tying two of their last three games. On Oct. 20, they closed out the regular season by solidly defeating Suffolk College 2-0. Germano credits his team for being resilient and having the courage to bounce back after losing a tough one to the No. 6th ranked team in all of Division 3.
“I was so proud of our guys, I think finishing as strong as we did even after a loss shows what we are about as a program,” said Germano.

Freshman midfielder Chris Schult works his way past a defender for Northern Vt.-Lyndon State. Picture by Norwich University.

Coach Pfiefer knows that late in the year keeping players healthy is important, especially with such a long season. “Late in the season we hit some adversity having some guys banged up,” said Piefer.
A huge reason for the team’s large amount of success is all-star freshman forward Bienfait Badibanga. “He is a goal scorer,” said Germano. Badibanga has been everything the young Cadet›s offense needed, filling multiple roles. Back in September, Badibanga won his first GNAC rookie of the week award by scoring his first collegiate hat trick as he accounted for every goal in Norwich›s 3-1 victory over Albertus Magnus.
Badibanga went on to win GNAC rookie of the week three times this season after many impressive performances. He was the Cadets leading scorer with 11 goals and 25 total points.
Pfiefer is quick to acknowledge the growth of the entire young roster on his team. “It isn’t just him getting it done,” said Piefer. “The younger group as a whole has been stellar and have done everything we’ve asked of them and then some more.”
With their first playoff game in a rematch with St Josephs (Conn.), the young Cadets showed their skill as they stayed alive in the playoffs with a 2-1 victory off of goals by freshmen duo Alex Brannan and Badabanga.
The season ended for the Cadets with a 2-0 loss to the #2-seed, Johnson and Wales (R.I.) Although the team was just shy of reaching the GNAC finals, the team seems to be in excellent position to make a run next year as the newer players continue their impressive development.

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