Eight members of the 2019 Harwood Union High School boys soccer team have been named to postseason all-star squads, and head coach Joe Yalicki has been voted the Capital League Coach of the Year.
Junior striker Hayden Adams, senior goalie Ollie Hammond and junior fullback Jasper Koliba all made the Capital League First Team and were selected to the Division 2 All-State team. Joining them on the Capital League First Team were freshman midfielder Cole Hill and junior fullback Skylar Platt. Representing Harwood on the Capital League Second Team were sophomore striker Finn O’Hara, sophomore midfielder Jack Birmingham and junior midfielder Gavin Thomsen.
Vermont’s all-league and all-state squads are selected by a vote of the coaches in their respective league and statewide division. The eight Highlanders selected to the squads this season, and their coach, helped Harwood finish the season 13-3-1 as the team reached the Division 2 semifinals.
• Much of Harwood’s scoring punch from its 2018 team — undefeated state champions — and Hayden Adams stepped in to help fill that void in 2019. Playing primarily at striker, the junior captain led the balanced offense with eight goals and six assists.
“He did a really good job,” Yalicki said. “He had four unassisted goals, and had a good amount of assists on crosses. He delivers a really good cross.”
Adams had several plays that would have been assists in hockey — making the pass that sets up someone else to deliver the actual assist, Yalicki said.
“He was involved in at least half of the goals we scored, probably more,” the second-year coach said, even though Adams had to learn on the fly how to be the focal point of opposing defenses and play with two or even three defenders pressuring him.
• Ollie Hammond sparkled in his first year as the full-time starter for the Highlanders. He started a few games last season, but really stepped up this year as the team’s primary goalie and second captain.
For the season, Hammond was responsible for 10 of the team’s 11 shutouts, allowing just seven goals and making 67 saves. He also finished the year with one assist and allowed only a single goal by Harwood’s Capital League opponents, an overtime strike by Stowe.
Hammond also helped Harwood preserve the lead in three one-goal wins and “did a really good job as a leader,” Yalicki said. There was actually less competition for the starting goalie job this season, but Hammond still pushed himself and “came in better than he was last year.”
Hammond shined even in games where he had to make only a handful of saves, routinely making clutch saves after not seeing the ball for long stretches.
Hammond’s contributions were summed up when his teammates voted him Most Valuable Player this season, Yalicki said.
• Working with Platt as center fullbacks, Jasper Koliba spearheaded a defense that kept a lot of pressure off Hammond. Koliba finished the year with one assist and was on the field for all 11 shutouts.
Koliba and Platt led the team in minutes played, Yalicki said, as both underclassmen stepped into prominent roles.
Many of the nine players who graduated after the 2018 season played defense, Yalicki added, and Koliba and Platt ensured Harwood’s defense stayed on lockdown.
“He made lots of long recovery runs, and got better playing the ball out of the air,” Yalicki said of Koliba, and his improved passing helped Harwood play its ball-control style.
• Skylar Platt was also on the field for all 11 of the team’s shutout wins, and contributed a goal on offense. Platt and Koliba complemented each other well as center fullbacks, because Platt is “a very good one-on-one defender,” his coach said. “He uses his body well, plays really clean, hard and physical without fouling.” The sophomore also “stepped up as a leader and organizer in the back.”
• Harwood’s final first team member, freshman Cole Hill, made his impact primarily on the offensive end. He scored six goals and four assists, with four of the goals and two assists coming via headers.
“He plays very good in the air,” Yalicki said, and has a knack for finding open spaces to sit in and attack when the time comes.
“He has a really good sense of what’s going on around him,” Yalicki said. “He’s always in the right spot and very rarely lost the ball on his foot.”
• Playing soccer again for the first time since middle school, Finn O’Hara “found his home” playing striker for the Highlanders. The sophomore finished the season with seven goals and four assists.
• Jack Birmingham and Gavin Thomsen. gave the Highlanders a pair of stalwarts in the midfield. Birmingham finished with a goal and two assists while Thomsen, who was also new to the team this year, had three scores and three assists.
• Yalicki, a Harwood alum, took over for longtime boys coach Don Haddox last fall, promptly winning a D-2 state championship with an undefeated record in his rookie campaign. After losing much of that team to graduation, he guided Harwood to another successful season in what was thought to be a rebuilding year.
“It’s an awesome honor. I appreciate the other coaches who nominated and voted for me,” Yalicki said.
“Joe is a student of the game who spends the offseason immersed in training soccer athletes,” said Brian Buczek, the head coach at rival Stowe High. “Joe has earned respect from his players and area coaches by coaching the game the right way.”
“His players are respectful, play hard and love to compete,” Buczek added. “Joe is a class act and deserves to be Coach of the Year in the Capital League.”
He got the honor, but Yalicki credited his coaching staff, Harwood administrators and, most of all, his players for the award.
“If I didn’t have players who were willing to start fresh, listen and be coached,” the season wouldn’t have gone so well , Yalicki said. “I’ve got to thank the kids for playing hard, listening and making me look good.”