By MADELINE HUGHES
Fans braced the chilly October day Tuesday to watch the Champlain Valley Union boys soccer team win the Division 1 semifinal game. The team followed their post-season script, playing a strong defense and getting onto the scoreboard in the second half, beating Burlington High School 1-0.
Despite the wind and muddy field, CVU’s defense stood strong against Burlington’s quick offense. For the majority of the game Burlington controlled the ball but CVU did not let them score.
“Our defense was immense the entire game,” Coach Rob Cole said. “Cullen Swett, Luke Morton and Aiden Johnson, our two center backs and goalie are in my opinion the best players in their positions. They are still pretty much flawless.”
CVU’s goalie, Johnson, has only let in two goals all season. In Tuesday’s game he had multiple saves.
With 20 minutes left and the score deadlocked 0-0, CVU picked up steam, passing the ball out to the wings and making runs down the sideline. The Redhawks were able to cash in when junior Jack Sinopoli scored with 16 minutes left on the clock.
The home crowd of students anxiously standing right up against the sideline, cheered and stayed rowdy through the final moments of the game.
With four minutes left, Burlington attempted to tie up the game with a direct kick. Johnson didn’t let that happen, knocking the ball over the crossbar and saving the Redhawks’ 1-0 lead.
With a minute and a half left, it was CVU’s turn for a direct kick, but they didn’t pull further ahead.
In the final minute, Burlington attempted to score and Johnson saved the day again.
With the Redhawks’ semifinal win, CVU boys remain undefeated and head to Saturday’s championship matchup against St. Johnsbury Academy Saturday at 1 p.m. at Burlington High School.
The boys cinched their first playoff win in the quarter-finals last Friday against Mount Mansfield Union at home.
The Redhawks controlled the game with a strong offense. Mount Mansfield’s defense was strong, leaving few holes for the Redhawks break through.
“Even though we had a lot of possession in the attacking area we couldn’t create that many clear-cut chances to score, so it took us getting a little better in the tight spaces to get a breakthrough,” Cole said.
Tensions were high in the first half as no team scored a goal. It wasn’t until 15 minutes into the second half when CVU got on the scoreboard as junior Jami Lashua scored the Redhawks’ sole goal.
The remaining 25 minutes of the game, CVU kept Mount Mansfield at bay with a strong defense.
Despite this year’s 14-0-2 record, CVU boys soccer has not made it to the D-I finals since 2015 when they lost 2-0 to Rice Memorial High School. If the Redhawks prevail on Saturday, it will be soccer powerhouse’s first championship since 2012.
“They are super-excited to be playing in a state championship,” coach Cole said. “We haven’t been to one in several years. We’ve lost in the semis the last two years, so there are some kids on the team who have always lost in the semifinals who are super-excited.”