SOUTH BURLINGTON — Harwood put on a passing clinic in nasty conditions Saturday and the beautiful game never looked better.
The Highlanders (14-0-1) earned a 3-0 victory over Woodstock in the Division II state championship thanks to two goals by Charlie Zschau. Will Lapointe capped the scoring with his 22nd goal of the season, while keeper Max Hill (three saves) helped Harwood record its 10th shutout. The top-seeded Highlanders dominated possession, outshooting the No. 2 Wasps 22-3.
“Winning today, I think about (former players) a lot,” senior midfielder Wyatt Adams said. “This is a win for everybody who’s been a part of the Harwood program for the past decade or so since we won a championship.”
Woodstock was under pressure from the opening whistle and relied almost exclusively on striker Isaac Emery for any offensive bursts. Wasps goalie Stephen Bianchi (10 saves) blocked a point-blank shot by Zschau in the opening minutes and then Zschau ripped a shot over the bar. The Wasps generated their first scoring attempt in the 15th minute on a 40-yard restart. Min Purvis’ kick was cleared out of the penalty area.
In the 18th minute, Wyatt Adams used a delicate touch to set up Zschau for a quality chance on the right side of the penalty area. One of Woodstock’s fullbacks knocked Zschau to the ground to set up a penalty kick. Wyatt Adams took the kick quickly and pounded a low bid inches beyond the left post.
While it could have been a game-changer in Woodstock’s favor, Adams knew more high-percentage shots were looming.
“A big thing for this team is having faith in our system and keeping our heads,” he said. “Obviously there’s a lot of talent, but a lot of hard work goes into making our soccer look the way it does. When I missed the PK, I don’t think anyone was stressing out about it. We had faith that there’s lots of more goals to be scored.”
With 1:04 left until halftime, Harwood grabbed the lead. Wyatt Adams settled a pass on the right side and chipped the ball over Bianchi, assisting Zschau for a far-post header and a 1-0 halftime cushion.
“That goal gave us a ton of energy,” Harwood coach Joe Yalicki said. “If it had been 0-0 at halftime, I still would have been reassuring them that the play was good and that goals were coming. But sometimes you really have to work for a goal. And that was just Wyatt putting the ball in a dangerous spot and Charlie working for it. If you play the right way all the time, eventually it’s going to go your way.”
Harwood doubled the lead in the 45th minute after Lapointe dribbled toward the penalty stripe and was swarmed by three opponents. At the last second he pushed the ball slightly to his right, causing Purvis, Bianchi and Lucas Piconi to crash into one another. As Lapoine moved the ball away from pressure, Zschau swept in without warning.
“I don’t know if Will set me up or if I stole it from him,” Zschau said.
The temptation was too hard for Zschau to resist and he calmly placed a shot into the open net. He scored the game-tying goal against Stowe to salvage the only tie of the season, and he opened the playoffs with two goals and two assists against GMVS. Zschau’s second-half strike against Woodstock marked his 10th goal of the season, and Lapointe was happy to be of service.
“At this point he deserves every goal he can get because he’s been setting me up all year,” Lapointe said. “If I could switch and he could have 22 goals and I could have all the assists he had, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Because he works harder than any kid I’ve met.”
Harwood closed out the scoring in the 56th minute on a corner kick by Zschau. Jesse McDougall headed the ball back at the far post and sent it toward the opposite side, where Lapointe nodded the ball across the goal line during a scramble.
The final 24 minutes served as an informal victory lap for the Highlanders, with Hill never tested at the end.
“Looking up at the crowd, you can see how many people actually care about us and what we’ve done as a team,” Lapointe said. “It’s always good to see that so many people out here came to support us. It just shows how big of community we are at Harwood and how everybody is here for everyone.”
The Highlanders snapped Woodstock’s eight-game winning streak after neutralizing Emery. The high-scoring striker broke through a handful of times in the first half, but he was constantly outnumbered and never created a true breakaway.
“(Emery) was tough,” Yalicki said. “If we had to, we could take our chances with him 2-vs.-1. But he went to goal as much as he could and he tried to combine with everybody that was around him. I’m sure he’s been a huge part of why they made a championship run.”
Woodstock ends the season at 12-4-1 after advancing to the title game for the third time in five years. The Wasps won eight matches by a single goal this season and coach Tom Avellino left the South Burlington pitch filled with pride.
“We belonged here and we challenged them well,” he said. “... We had some more chances in the first half, but we didn’t get the ball over midfield much in the second half. And Harwood possesses so well. We rely on team defense a lot and we didn’t really single out one guy because they were too strong with a lot of guys.”
Harwood owns six titles after previous championships in 1976, 1983, 1984, 1987 and 2007. The Highlanders have had one losing season in the last 12 years and they’ve advanced to at least the semifinals four years in a row. Yalicki and assistant coach Eric Mackey played on the 2007 squad and they were celebrating together again a decade later.
“There were so many people that we’re out there playing for. You look at our half of the grandstand and you could see a lot of people really care about us,” Yalicki said. “It’s just great to capitalize and get to the point in the year that you really want to be at.”