TIMES ARGUS BOYS SOCCER

FIRST TEAM

Trevor Clayton U-32 Senior

Teams across Central Vermont knew they had to respect Clayton or else pay the price. The muscular striker excelled at receiving the ball with his back to goal, turning and blasting shots on target with either foot. He tallied 30 career goals and 10 assists despite being stalked by defenders in almost every match. He contributed six goals and three assists while playing through several injuries as a senior. While he was briefly sidelined, his twin brother Dylan always picked up the slack. Trevor Clayton was in fine form under the lights against Peoples Academy, scoring the tying goal to pave the way for a 2-1 victory. He recorded a hat trick in a 6-2 victory over Northfield-Williamstown before notching one goal and two assists in a 3-0 victory over D-II semifinalist Lake Region. “Trevor has a great first touch, quickness and technical ability,” U-32 coach Mike Noyes said. “He is really good in tight spaces and does a remarkable job in traffic. He’s dangerous with his speed and he was a marked man this year. And he did a nice job, especially toward late in the season, of facilitating things and trying to be the guy. …Both Trevor and Dyland showed a great amount of maturity this year and they’ve grown up a lot over four years.”

Dylan Clayton

U-32 Senior

The Raiders boasted a pick-your-poison offense with Dylan Clayton supporting his fraternal twin in the attacking third. Dylan paced U-32 this season with eight goals to go along with two assists. He scored over 20 career goals and had a knack for coming through in clutch situations. He set up his brother twice in a 3-0 victory over Lake Region and scored the game-winner against D-III champ Peoples in the 91st minute. Clayton contributed one goal and one assist in a 6-2 victory over Northfield-Williamstown and also led the Raiders to a 3-2 victory over Lamoille. The box-to-box midfielder scored during the 12th minute in the playdowns, propeling his side to a 1-0 victory over Hartford. Clayton never had a losing season at U-32 while following in the footsteps of his father Rick, who was a talented finisher for the Raiders in the mid-90’s. “Dylan is really great in wide-open spaces and has an amazing shot with both feet,” U-32 coach Mike Noyes said. “He was our leading scorer this year and he had a remarkable season. He was the one player I could put anywhere on the field and feel fairly comfortable. He played defensive mid, he played attacking mid, he played on the wing, he played striker. He was a very versatile player and he tracked back a lot on defense. …Trevor was banged up a little bit this season, but Dylan stepped into that role and did a great job.”

Skylar Platt

Harwood Junior

One of Vermont’s top hockey and baseball standouts, Platt was no slouch on the pitch either. Shutouts have been the top priority the last three years as he worked with goalies Max Hill, Ollie Hammond and Jake Collier. The Highlanders (8-3) made the most of a shortened 2020 schedule by recording five clean sheets. Platt and HU secured 11 shutouts in 2019 and 10 in 2018. The team captain and two-time Capital Division First Team fullback tallied three goals and three assists this season. “Skylar has got a lot of things beyond just what he does as a player,” Harwood coach Joe Yalicki said. “We didn’t have him for a couple games and then we got him back. And it was a noticeable change in energy and what we were able to do. He’s just such a well-rounded athlete. He sees opportunities on the schedule, he looks ahead at matchups and is thinking about who’s on the field and how they play. He doesn’t just think about what he’s doing — he thinks about what other people are doing. He was really versatile and played a lot of positions, and he certainly wanted to drift toward the midfield. He felt like he could contribute there and he felt like it’s what we needed. He also played great as an outside back. And if needed, he filled in as a center back too. There was a game where we were outplaying Thetford at home and it was 1-0. We stuck him at forward in the second half, and in a span of five minutes we had three more goals. He’s just a difference-maker. He has an X-factor thing to him. He always says, ‘I want to outwork that guy.’ But I think it’s poise, confidence, hard-nosed playing. He’s not dirty, but he goes to the ground a lot. And that gets the other guys excited too.”

Finn O’Hara

Harwood Junior

The hockey and lacrosse star does not play much soccer out of season and Highlanders coach Joe Yalicki can’t take credit for O’Hara’s natural abilities. But Yalicki happily took advantage of the target striker’s unrelenting style, which allowed the defense to breathe easily as O’Hara went to work up top. He tallied four goals and four assists in 2020, following up a seven-goal, four-assist performance in 2019. O’Hara’s 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame created lots of mismatches against smaller opponents, and his playmaking abilities complemented his nose for the net. “A week into preseason I was complaining about not having enough soccer balls,” Yalicki said. “And Finn said, ‘Oh, I should probably go buy one.’ I don’t think he had a ball. And to other people, I’m sure that’s a little frustrating. This kid doesn’t even train at this area but he’s just so strong and talented. And you’d think he’d be lacking in some of the skills: passing, receiving the ball. But he gets by. He has this sense of, ‘This is what the ball is going to do. This is what this guy is going to do.’ He predicts plays so well. I have to think that comes from hockey, but it’s also just natural athleticism, strength and confidence. Most guys want the ball at their foot or right in front of them. But if it’s within 20 or so yards, Finn is going to put a body on the guy and go in and make something happen. And that goes a long way for high school soccer around here: just that constant pressure. He could pick off passes and he could get in the box in a bunch. He drew some penalty kicks, drew some free kicks. With him and Skylar (Platt), being the best hockey players on the ice for a couple years translated to soccer because they’re not afraid of anything.”

Jack Birmingham

Harwood Junior

The three-year varsity contributor was a go-to starter for the second straight season, setting the pace for HU in the middle of the park. Birmingham recorded two goals and four assists in 2020 after dishing out three assists in 2019. He learned the ropes as a freshman while working with fellow midfielders Wyatt Adams, Marcus Baird and Duncan Weinman on an undefeated state championship team. Birmingham’s fitness, airtight marking and strength in the air made him one of the top defensive midfielders in Central Vermont. His offensive creativity was on display when he set up teammates with pinpoint passes to feet or into tiny pockets of open space. “Jack stepped up this year,” Harwood coach Joe Yalicki said. “He made a really big jump from last year to this year. He could control the pace of a lot of games and he connected our back to our attack really well. I just relied on him. Jack and Jasper anchored the center of our defense. Jack was a midfielder, but he blocked and shielded off a lot of stuff from the back line too. He plays a lot year-round and he’s a thinker of the game. He was always asking what adjustments to make. I might say a point and he’d ask, ‘Do you mean it like this? Is this the situation?’ So I like having a kid like that who’s pretty cerebral. ...As a freshman, we threw Jack right in there and he held his own with seniors. We knew we were going to get a really good player with him. I was just glad he got the chance to shine this year. He deserved it.”

Isaiah Schaefer-Geiger

Stowe Senior

A huge wingspan, catlike reflexes and nerves of steel are just three reasons Schaefer-Geiger was one of Vermont’s top goalies for the second straight year. As a junior he recorded 15 shutouts for the 17-0-1 Raiders, stopping a penalty kick in the final to fuel the team’s eight consecutive title. He registered six shutouts in 2020, helping Stowe piece together an 8-2 record despite losing eight starters from the 2019 squad. Schaefer-Geiger recorded clean sheets against Montpelier, Randolph, U-32, Thetford, Lake Region and BFA-St. Albans. He made momentum-shifting PK saves during a 3-2 victory over Harwood and a 3-1 win over North Country. “With all the people that we lost, going into the season I thought we were going to be close to .500,” first-year Stowe coach Shane Bufano said. “We grew into a team as the year went on, and a big part of that was senior leadership. Isaiah literally saved games for us and gave us the ability to be confident. And he stopped two PKs in the run of play. We went down 1-0 at North Country and they drew a penalty 10 minutes later. And that could have put us down 2-0 in the early season when we were still growing into ourselves. But Isaiah kept us in games and he was a leader. The whole energy and psyche of the team is different in front of that goalkeeper when you have confidence in them. You have confidence to be a little bit more risky and make mistakes, knowing you have the faith in him back there. As I am an offensive coach, it allowed our defensive to get up and to be offensive. If they were to make a mistake on the back line, everyone knew Isaiah was going to save it. And statistically he was able to prove that by making some really big saves in games.”

Jules Gershman

Stowe Senior

There’s no doubt that Stowe’s brick-wall defense was held together by Gershman, who helped the Raiders rattle off 45 shutouts during the last four years. Stowe’s back line closed out six clean sheets this season despite an abbreviated schedule. The Raiders were undefeated against Capital Division opponents, giving Gershman and his teammates Central Vermont bragging rights for another year. “I don’t think you can replace Jules’ leadership,” Stowe coach Shane Bufano said. “There’s many little things that he did that I haven’t even seen at that level. When we were losing to Vergennes, and when we were losing to Lake Region, he was screaming to have some of the bench players be ball boys so that we could get every little second to get back into the game. I don’t think we would have been as successful as we were if it wasn’t for him — both on the field and the leadership off the field. And I was transitioning from being a college coach to getting thrown into it a week-and-a-half before school, and not knowing any of the kids. So Jules really was integral in being a liaison between me and the rest of the group. There are so many intangibles with him and I always thought of him being the center back, but he’s just so talented that he could play wherever. He could have played up front all year. But what you want in a goalkeeper and center back is a strong leader. And he can see the whole field back there and he came in ready to direct. As the last line of defense before the goalie, he worked so hard and would come back and make some huge sliding saves, catching up to guys that had already just beaten the rest of our defense over the top. And he was also great at being offensive-minded and getting us to have an extra man up in the attack. He’s a smart player. And he’s got the intangibles of hard work and sacrifice that nobody else I’ve ever coached has really been committed to like he was.”

Jono Nissenbaum

Stowe Senior

The veteran midfielder overcame an ankle injury to record eight goals and four assists during his final varsity season. He served up two goals and one assist in a 3-0 victory over BFA-St. Albans and also scored during 3-0 victories over U-32 and Thetford. He made clutch defensive contributions to lock up 1-0 victories over Lake Region and eventual D-II champ Montpelier. Nissenbaum was also on top of his game during a 3-1 victory over North Country, a 4-0 victory over Randolph and a 3-2 win over Harwood. “My first impressions of Jono were really good,” Stowe coach Shane Bufano said. “A part of how I got acclimated to the team was I was coming down a few days a week and was playing pickup with them at Mayo Fields. And for whatever reason I kept getting put on Jono’s team — because I didn’t really know anybody. I was playing up front and he was playing right behind me as a center attacking mid. And not knowing him and not even really communicating that much on the field — just eye movements and body language — his ability to move and fill seams was impressive. We worked very well together as a playing duo and he was scoring a lot of goals. And then when it would get switched up and he wasn’t on my team, the flow of the offense was completely different. So even though I could put him in many different positions, I always knew the center of the park was where he belonged. The straight-on soccer decisions he would make were always top level. And he was unselfish on top of that and never really thought about stats.”

Leo Riby-Williams

Montpelier Senior

The tough-as-nails defender may be best known for his offensive prowess after volleying home one of the most memorable goals in program history. With just over a minute left to play in the Division II championship, Riby-Williams one-timed a cross from Quinn Mills into the lower-right portion of the net to spark a 2-1 victory over previously undefeated Milton. It gave the Solons their first title since 1996, and the feat was especially cathartic because Riby-Williams and his classmates had never won a playoff game until this year. He also scored a last-minute equalizer against U-32 before his younger brother Ronnie headed in the game-winner in overtime. The elder Riby-Williams scored another key goal for the 9-3 Solons during a playdown victory over Missisquoi. “Leo has started almost every game as center back the last three years,” Montpelier coach Eric Bagley said. “He did a great job of recognizing when it was the right time to try and dribble forward, and when it was the right time to pass the ball. And with our style of play, playing as a center back is really difficult. So you have to be intelligent out on the field. And he really improved in that area quite a bit. …We played a little bit more of a defensive style last year, with four midfielders and a little bit less going forward. And this year the big difference for Leo was he really matured — not only as a player, but as a person. You could tell. When we were able to start practicing over the summer, he was really focussed. He was really into it and he wanted to come out and have a good senior year. And especially toward the end of the year, he was a real threat for us on set plays.”

Ben Collier

Montpelier Junior

The three-year varsity standout notched two goals and five assists for the Division II champs. He dished out two assists in a 4-0 victory over Randolph and scored in a 2-0 victory over Northfield-Williamstown and a 3-0 playdown win over Missisquoi. He also set up teammate Quinn Mills in a 1-0 victory over eventual D-III champ Peoples. Collier buried four goals as a sophomore and has been a defensive rock for the stingy Solons. “Ben is one of the most consistent players that we had this year,” Montpelier coach Eric Bagley said. “We always knew what he was going to bring to a game. We could always rely on him right in the center of midfield. He had a pretty severe foot injury that he picked up that first playoff game. So the last week-and-a-half of the season he barely practiced. But he still came out and produced when it mattered. He’s a very smart player and he understands the concept of space and how to find it and how to get himself into really good areas. His technical ability allows him to play in tighter areas where anybody who is physical with him doesn’t really affect him that much. And he’s a pretty physical player. He uses his body really well, he shields the ball, he goes in to make tackles.”

Will Bruzzese

Montpelier Junior

The waterski and basketball star made things appear effortless on the soccer field. He was straight-faced and all business while knocking in the game-winning goal during the second round of a penalty-kick shootout in the Division II quarterfinals against Harwood. Defensively, he led the Solons to eight shutouts in 2019 and six in 2021. Montpelier earned clean sheets this fall against Lyndon, Northfield-Williamstown, D-III champ Peoples, Randolph, Missisquoi and Lake Region. Bruzzese will team up with fellow defenders Leo Riby-Williams and Tyler Ricker on the Solons’ basketball team, which suffered a last-second loss this past winter during the D-II championship. “Will scored that huge penalty to get us past Harwood in the quarterfinals,” Montpelier coach Eric Bagley said. “He understands sports and he can read the game really well. So he’s able to anticipate and get into the right positions, where he can intercept passes or be in a position to defend without having to make those last-minute lunges that you so often see. And Will is a natural leader. He’s very calm and he doesn’t let his emotions get to him. So I had all the confidence in the world of putting him in that position to hit that last penalty kick.”

SECOND TEAM

Caiden Crawford-Stempel, Paine Mt. Nick Passalacqua, Paine Mt. Max Weinstein, Montpelier Brecken Shea, Montpelier Tyler Ricker, Montpelier Adrian Bryan, Stowe Gave Van Hoy, U-32 Tyler Hedding, U-32 Ryan Glassford, Spaulding Gavin Thomsen, Harwood Jasper Koliba, Harwood

HONORABLE MENTION

Quinn Mills, Montpelier Ronnie Riby-Williams, Montpelier Levi West, Randolph Kent Barcomb, Spaulding Dylan Estivill, Spaulding Wiley Barnett, Stowe Adin Combs, Paine Mt. Jacob Bizzozero, U-32 Nathan Mulligan, Christ Covenant Meles Gouge, Twinfield Ethan Shopland, Hazen

TIMES ARGUS

BOYS SOCCER

FIRST TEAM

Trevor Clayton

U-32 Senior

Teams across Central Vermont knew they had to respect Clayton or else pay the price. The muscular striker excelled at receiving the ball with his back to goal, turning and blasting shots on target with either foot. He tallied 30 career goals and 10 assists despite being stalked by defenders in almost every match. He contributed six goals and three assists while playing through several injuries as a senior. While he was briefly sidelined, his twin brother Dylan always picked up the slack. Trevor Clayton was in fine form under the lights against Peoples Academy, scoring the tying goal to pave the way for a 2-1 victory. He recorded a hat trick in a 6-2 victory over Northfield-Williamstown before notching one goal and two assists in a 3-0 victory over D-II semifinalist Lake Region.

“Trevor has a great first touch, quickness and technical ability,” U-32 coach Mike Noyes said. “He is really good in tight spaces and does a remarkable job in traffic. He’s dangerous with his speed and he was a marked man this year. And he did a nice job, especially toward late in the season, of facilitating things and trying to be the guy. …Both Trevor and Dyland showed a great amount of maturity this year and they’ve grown up a lot over four years.”

Dylan Clayton

U-32 Senior

The Raiders boasted a pick-your-poison offense with Dylan Clayton supporting his fraternal twin in the attacking third. Dylan paced U-32 this season with eight goals to go along with two assists. He scored over 20 career goals and had a knack for coming through in clutch situations. He set up his brother twice in a 3-0 victory over Lake Region and scored the game-winner against D-III champ Peoples in the 91st minute. Clayton contributed one goal and one assist in a 6-2 victory over Northfield-Williamstown and also led the Raiders to a 3-2 victory over Lamoille. The box-to-box midfielder scored during the 12th minute in the playdowns, propeling his side to a 1-0 victory over Hartford. Clayton never had a losing season at U-32 while following in the footsteps of his father Rick, who was a talented finisher for the Raiders in the mid-90’s.

“Dylan is really great in wide-open spaces and has an amazing shot with both feet,” U-32 coach Mike Noyes said. “He was our leading scorer this year and he had a remarkable season. He was the one player I could put anywhere on the field and feel fairly comfortable. He played defensive mid, he played attacking mid, he played on the wing, he played striker. He was a very versatile player and he tracked back a lot on defense. …Trevor was banged up a little bit this season, but Dylan stepped into that role and did a great job.”

Skyla Platt

Harwood Junior

One of Vermont’s top hockey and baseball standouts, Platt was no slouch on the pitch either. Shutouts have been the top priority the last three years as he worked with goalies Max HIll, Ollie Hammond and Jake Collier. The Highlanders (8-3) made the most of a shortened 2020 schedule by recording five clean sheets. Platt and HU secured 11 shutouts in 2019 and 10 in 2018. The team captain and two-time Capital Division First Team fullback tallied three goals and three assists this season.

“Skylar has got a lot of things beyond just what he does as a player,” Harwood coach Joe Yalicki said. “We didn’t have him for a couple games and then we got him back. And it was a noticeable change in energy and what we were able to do. He’s just such a well-rounded athlete. He sees opportunities on the schedule, he looks ahead at matchups and is thinking about who’s on the field and how they play. He doesn’t just think about what he’s doing — he thinks about what other people are doing. He was really versatile and played a lot of positions, and he certainly wanted to drift toward the midfield. He felt like he could contribute there and he felt like it’s what we needed. He also played great as an outside back. And if needed, he filled in as a center back too. There was a game where we were outplaying Thetford at home and it was 1-0. We stuck him at forward in the second half, and in a span of five minutes we had three more goals. He’s just a difference-maker. He has an X-factor thing to him. He always says, ‘I want to outwork that guy.’ But I think it’s poise, confidence, hard-nosed playing. He’s not dirty, but he goes to the ground a lot. And that gets the other guys excited too.”

Finn O’Hara

Harwood Junior

The hockey and lacrosse star does not play much soccer out of season and Highlanders coach Joe Yalicki can’t take credit for O’Hara’s natural abilities. But Yalicki happily took advantage of the target striker’s unrelenting style, which allowed the defense to breathe easily as O’Hara went to work up top. He tallied four goals and four assists in 2020, following up a seven-goal, four-assist performance in 2019. O’Hara’s 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame created lots of mismatches against smaller opponents, and his playmaking abilities complemented his nose for the net.

“A week into preseason I was complaining about not having enough soccer balls,” Yalicki said. “And Finn said, ‘Oh, I should probably go buy one.’ I don’t think he had a ball. And to other people, I’m sure that’s a little frustrating. This kid doesn’t even train at this area but he’s just so strong and talented. And you’d think he’d be lacking in some of the skills: passing, receiving the ball. But he gets by. He has this sense of, ‘This is what the ball is going to do. This is what this guy is going to do.’ He predicts plays so well. I have to think that comes from hockey, but it’s also just natural athleticism, strength and confidence. Most guys want the ball at their foot or right in front of them. But if it’s within 20 or so yards, Finn is going to put a body on the guy and go in and make something happen. And that goes a long way for high school soccer around here: just that constant pressure. He could pick off passes and he could get in the box in a bunch. He drew some penalty kicks, drew some free kicks. With him and Skylar (Platt), being the best hockey players on the ice for a couple years translated to soccer because they’re not afraid of anything.”

Jack Birmingham

Harwood Junior

The three-year varsity contributor was a go-to starter for the second straight season, setting the pace for HU in the middle of the park. Birmingham recorded two goals and four assists in 2020 after dishing out three assists in 2019. He learned the ropes as a freshman while working with fellow midfielders Wyatt Adams, Marcus Baird and Duncan Weinman on an undefeated state championship team. Birmingham’s fitness, airtight marking and strength in the air made him one of the top defensive midfielders in Central Vermont. His offensive creativity was on display when he set up teammates with pinpoint passes to feet or into tiny pockets of open space.

“Jack stepped up this year,” Harwood coach Joe Yalicki said. “He made a really big jump from last year to this year. He could control the pace of a lot of games and he connected our back to our attack really well. I just relied on him. Jack and Jasper anchored the center of our defense. Jack was a midfielder, but he blocked and shielded off a lot of stuff from the back line too. He plays a lot year-round and he’s a thinker of the game. He was always asking what adjustments to make. I might say a point and he’d ask, ‘Do you mean it like this? Is this the situation?’ So I like having a kid like that who’s pretty cerebral. ...As a freshman, we threw Jack right in there and he held his own with seniors. We knew we were going to get a really good player with him. I was just glad he got the chance to shine this year. He deserved it.”

Isaiah Schaefer-Geiger

Stowe Senior

A huge wingspan, catlike reflexes and nerves of steel are just three reasons Schaefer-Geiger was one of Vermont’s top goalies for the second straight year. As a junior he recorded 15 shutouts for the 17-0-1 Raiders, stopping a penalty kick in the final to fuel the team’s eight consecutive title. He registered six shutouts in 2020, helping Stowe piece together an 8-2 record despite losing eight starters from the 2019 squad. Schaefer-Geiger recorded clean sheets against Montpelier, Randolph, U-32, Thetford, Lake Region and BFA-St. Albans. He made momentum-shifting PK saves during a 3-2 victory over Harwood and a 3-1 win over North Country.

“With all the people that we lost, going into the season I thought we were going to be close to .500,” first-year Stowe coach Shane Bufano said. “We grew into a team as the year went on, and a big part of that was senior leadership. Isaiah literally saved games for us and gave us the ability to be confident. And he stopped two PKs in the run of play. We went down 1-0 at North Country and they drew a penalty 10 minutes later. And that could have put us down 2-0 in the early season when we were still growing into ourselves. But Isaiah kept us in games and he was a leader. The whole energy and psyche of the team is different in front of that goalkeeper when you have confidence in them. You have confidence to be a little bit more risky and make mistakes, knowing you have the faith in him back there. As I am an offensive coach, it allowed our defensive to get up and to be offensive. If they were to make a mistake on the back line, everyone knew Isaiah was going to save it. And statistically he was able to prove that by making some really big saves in games.”

Jules Gershman

Stowe Senior

There’s no doubt that Stowe’s brick-wall defense was held together by Gershman, who helped the Raiders rattle off 45 shutouts during the last four years. Stowe’s back line closed out six clean sheets this season despite an abbreviated schedule. The Raiders were undefeated against Capital Division opponents, giving Gershman and his teammates Central Vermont bragging rights for another year.

“I don’t think you can replace Jules’ leadership,” Stowe coach Shane Bufano said. “There’s many little things that he did that I haven’t even seen at that level. When we were losing to Vergennes, and when we were losing to Lake Region, he was screaming to have some of the bench players be ball boys so that we could get every little second to get back into the game. I don’t think we would have been as successful as we were if it wasn’t for him — both on the field and the leadership off the field. And I was transitioning from being a college coach to getting thrown into it a week-and-a-half before school, and not knowing any of the kids. So Jules really was integral in being a liaison between me and the rest of the group. There are so many intangibles with him and I always thought of him being the center back, but he’s just so talented that he could play wherever. He could have played up front all year. But what you want in a goalkeeper and center back is a strong leader. And he can see the whole field back there and he came in ready to direct. As the last line of defense before the goalie, he worked so hard and would come back and make some huge sliding saves, catching up to guys that had already just beaten the rest of our defense over the top. And he was also great at being offensive-minded and getting us to have an extra man up in the attack. He’s a smart player. And he’s got the intangibles of hard work and sacrifice that nobody else I’ve ever coached has really been committed to like he was.”

Jono Nissenbaum

Stowe Senior

The veteran midfielder overcame an ankle injury to record eight goals and four assists during his final varsity season. He served up two goals and one assist in a 3-0 victory over BFA-St. Albans and also scored during 3-0 victories over U-32 and Thetford. He made clutch defensive contributions to lock up 1-0 victories over Lake Region and eventual D-II champ Montpelier. Nissenbaum was also on top of his game during a 3-1 victory over North Country, a 4-0 victory over Randolph and a 3-2 win over Harwood.

“My first impressions of Jono were really good,” Stowe coach Shane Bufano said. “A part of how I got acclimated to the team was I was coming down a few days a week and was playing pickup with them at Mayo Fields. And for whatever reason I kept getting put on Jono’s team — because I didn’t really know anybody. I was playing up front and he was playing right behind me as a center attacking mid. And not knowing him and not even really communicating that much on the field — just eye movements and body language — his ability to move and fill seams was impressive. We worked very well together as a playing duo and he was scoring a lot of goals. And then when it would get switched up and he wasn’t on my team, the flow of the offense was completely different. So even though I could put him in many different positions, I always knew the center of the park was where he belonged. The straight-on soccer decisions he would make were always top level. And he was unselfish on top of that and never really thought about stats.”

Leo Riby-Williams

Montpelier Senior

The tough-as-nails defender may be best known for his offensive prowess after volleying home one of the most memorable goals in program history. With just over a minute left to play in the Division II championship, Riby-Williams one-timed a cross from Quinn Mills into the lower-right portion of the net to spark a 2-1 victory over previously undefeated Milton. It gave the Solons their first title since 1996, and the feat was especially cathartic because Riby-Williams and his classmates had never won a playoff game until this year. He also scored a last-minute equalizer against U-32 before his younger brother Ronnie headed in the game-winner in overtime. The elder Riby-Williams scored another key goal for the 9-3 Solons during a playdown victory over Missisquoi.

“Leo has started almost every game as center back the last three years,” Montpelier coach Eric Bagley said. “He did a great job of recognizing when it was the right time to try and dribble forward, and when it was the right time to pass the ball. And with our style of play, playing as a center back is really difficult. So you have to be intelligent out on the field. And he really improved in that area quite a bit. …We played a little bit more of a defensive style last year, with four midfielders and a little bit less going forward. And this year the big difference for Leo was he really matured — not only as a player, but as a person. You could tell. When we were able to start practicing over the summer, he was really focussed. He was really into it and he wanted to come out and have a good senior year. And especially toward the end of the year, he was a real threat for us on set plays.”

Ben Collier

Montpelier Junior

The three-year varsity standout notched two goals and five assists for the Division II champs. He dished out two assists in a 4-0 victory over Randolph and scored in a 2-0 victory over Northfield-Williamstown and a 3-0 playdown win over Missisquoi. He also set up teammate Quinn Mills in a 1-0 victory over eventual D-III champ Peoples. Collier buried four goals as a sophomore and has been a defensive rock for the stingy Solons.

“Ben is one of the most consistent players that we had this year,” Montpelier coach Eric Bagley said. “We always knew what he was going to bring to a game. We could always rely on him right in the center of midfield. He had a pretty severe foot injury that he picked up that first playoff game. So the last week-and-a-half of the season he barely practiced. But he still came out and produced when it mattered. He’s a very smart player and he understands the concept of space and how to find it and how to get himself into really good areas. His technical ability allows him to play in tighter areas where anybody who is physical with him doesn’t really affect him that much. And he’s a pretty physical player. He uses his body really well, he shields the ball, he goes in to make tackles.”

Will Bruzzese

Montpelier Junior

The waterski and basketball star made things appear effortless on the soccer field. He was straight-faced and all business while knocking in the game-winning goal during the second round of a penalty-kick shootout in the Division II quarterfinals against Harwood. Defensively, he led the Solons to eight shutouts in 2019 and six in 2021. Montpelier earned clean sheets this fall against Lyndon, Northfield-Williamstown, D-III champ Peoples, Randolph, Missisquoi and Lake Region. Bruzzese will team up with fellow defenders Leo Riby-Williams and Tyler Ricker on the Solons’ basketball team, which suffered a last-second loss this past winter during the D-II championship.

“Will scored that huge penalty to get us past Harwood in the quarterfinals,” Montpelier coach Eric Bagley said. “He understands sports and he can read the game really well. So he’s able to anticipate and get into the right positions, where he can intercept passes or be in a position to defend without having to make those last-minute lunges that you so often see. And Will is a natural leader. He’s very calm and he doesn’t let his emotions get to him. So I had all the confidence in the world of putting him in that position to hit that last penalty kick.”

SECOND TEAM

Caiden Crawford-Stempel, Paine Mt.

Nick Passalacqua, Paine Mt.

Max Weinstein, Montpelier

Brecken Shea, Montpelier

Tyler Ricker, Montpelier

Adrian Bryan, Stowe

Gave Van Hoy, U-32

Tyler Hedding, U-32

Ryan Glassford, Spaulding

Gavin Thomsen, Harwood

Jasper Koliba, Harwood

HONORABLE MENTION

Quinn Mills, Montpelier

Ronnie Riby-Williams, Montpelier

Levi West, Randolph

Kent Barcomb, Spaulding

Dylan Estivill, Spaulding

Wiley Barnett, Stowe

Adin Combs, Paine Mt.

Jacob Bizzozero, U-32

Nathan Mulligan, Christ Covenant

Meles Gouge, Twinfield

Ethan Shopland, Hazen

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