Men’s soccer jumps to national stage

Coming off an America East Championship last year and starting the 2016-2017 season by receiving a national ranking, the UVM men’s soccer team is once again a force in Division I soccer.

The Catamounts are currently having one of the best starts in program history, having won seven out of their first eight games since the season began in late August, according to UVM athletics.

Senior midfielder Jackson Dayton attributes a lot of the recent success to the team’s experience.

“I think the fact that we can skip the adjustment process to the Division I game that most younger teams have to deal with has been a big advantage,” Dayton said.

“Last year’s performance has been great for our confidence this fall,” he said.

Dayton stressed the importance of confidence, which he said helps the Catamounts “keep our standards high every time we step on the field for practice and games.”

The season’s start led UVM to a brief NCAA Top 25 ranking. However, since their recent 2-1 loss to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond Sept. 11, they have taken a dip to a rank of No. 31 in the country.

The record is also good enough for the No. 2 spot in the America East Conference, right behind the University of Massachusetts Lowell (6-0-1), a team currently ranked No. 27 in the country, according to the NCAA Coaches Rankings.

Dayton highlighted the fact that the UVM attack boasts some of the most effective players in the country.

“[Senior forward] Brian Wright currently leads the country in assists and [senior forward] Bernard Yeboah is tied for first in goals,” Dayton said.

In addition, Dayton pointed out that strong team chemistry is part of the team’s identity, especially for the attackers.

“[Our] front four guys who are all seniors have developed great chemistry over the last four years that is pretty unstoppable,” Dayton said.

Yeboah said he has high hopes and expectations for the team after the Cats’ hot start.

“After last year’s loss in the NCAA Tournament, a lot of us felt that we could have made a deeper run,” Yeboah said.

“Returning players set a goal in the beginning of the year to try and make a run for the National Championship,” he said.

The only year a Catamount team made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament was in 2007 under current head coach Jesse Cormier, according to UVM athletics.

Yebaoh said he feels that this year’s team is up for the challenge.

“We want to become one of the best UVM men’s soccer teams in school history,” Yeboah said.

“It’s going to take a lot of work to get there, but I believe with hard work and focus we can achieve this goal,” he said.

Yeboah and Dayton both agree UVM’s biggest strength is their ability to turn defense into offense with a strong counterattack, citing the speed that their team possesses, especially on the offensive end.

The Catamounts will begin a four-game home stretch starting Sept. 21, as well as a showdown at UMass Lowell Oct. 12.