Men’s Soccer Wins Third Straight Game


Adam Batista '14 clears the lines in a 2-0 victory against Norwich last Tuesday, Sept. 11. Middlebury's defense helped anchor the team with three consecutive clean sheets this past week.

By Owen Teach

Following a listless 2-0 loss in its opener against Tufts, the men’s soccer team was in search of help on both sides of the ball. As head coach Dave Saward said after the loss, the team needed “that magical man to put balls in the net.” Middlebury has found that man in tri-captain Alvand Hajizadeh ’13.

The senior from Williamstown, Mass., who was held to just one shot against Tufts, propelled the Middlebury offense to three straight victories this past week with involvement in all four Panther goals.

Hajizadeh scored his first career goal seven minutes into the contest against in-state foe Norwich on Sept. 11, before adding an assist on Graham Knisley’s ’14 goal in the 87th minute to cap a 2-0 victory. In overtime on Saturday in Waterville, Maine, Hajizadeh then struck again in the 93rd minute to give the Panthers a 1-0 win over Colby, a team the Panthers have not beaten in four years. He then capped off his weekend with Middlebury’s lone goal in the 43rd minute against Plymouth State on Sunday for another 1-0 victory.

Hajizadeh, who had only two assists in a Panther uniform prior to this season, has already surpassed his career-scoring total with his four points over the weekend.

“[Hajizadeh] has really stepped up and carried the team with great performances,” said teammate Matt Martin ‘12.5. “He’s playing really well up front and we all think three game-winning goals in a row deserves a NESCAC Player of the Week.”

League officials agreed with Martin in this respect, as Hajizadeh received the first Player of the Week award given to a Panther this season.
Hajizadeh’s emergence will also alter the game from a strategy perspective.

“His increased output will not change our game plan at all, but it will certainly change how our opponents scout our team,” Saward said. “They will now prepare themselves a little more for number nine [Hajizadeh], which will open up chances for other guys to contribute as well.”

Just as Hajizadeh’s presence in the lineup energized the front end, Saward made several changes in back that solidified a defense that did not allowed a goal in three games. Adam Batista ’14 moved from wing midfielder to right back, while Willie Gevertz ’14 also provided keeper Zach Abdu-Glass ’13 with more structure in the defensive third.

“They [Batista and Gevertz] have had a big influence in shoring up the back, while Zach has done all that has been asked of him in the net,” said Saward.

The changes resonated well with Martin as well.

“Putting Batista in the back gives us a lot of pace both in the defense and also getting forward; the kid can run all day,” he said. “Abdu-Glass also has been playing really well, stepping up to fill the big shoes of Tim Cahill ’12 and developing the same important presence that a goalie needs.”

The news was not all good for the Panthers, however, as they were dealt another tough blow with the injury of Sammie Redmond ’15 against Plymouth State.

“Injuries are a really tough part of the game, especially with such a short season,” Martin said. “With our depth on the bench, however, we should be alright and we need to get behind Sammie and Jon [Portman ’13] to make sure they are back on the field as soon as possible.”

Another subplot to the week was that the Norwich coaching staff featured the second visiting head coach, Kyle Dezotell ’03, (after Josh Shapiro ’97, now coaching at  Tufts) to have previously played under Saward here at Middlebury. The other was Joseph Shapiro ’97, now coaching a Tufts team that sits at 3-0 overall after wins against Wesleyan and Plymouth State this past week, while Norwich is 4-2.

“Probably of all the things I’m most proud of is that some of these guys want to go ahead and have a go at this profession,” said Saward.

The 3-1 Panthers have a pair of home NESCAC games on the men’s soccer turf this weekend. Middlebury faces Bowdoin on Saturday, followed by the Lord Jeffs of Amherst on Sunday.