CHESTER — A new head coach, the same high expectations.
Green Mountain Union boys soccer coach Jake Walker takes over the main gig this year on the sidelines, moving from his assistant coaching role on last year’s Division III state championship team.
Taking over for Cole Wilhelm, the adjustment has been seamless for Walker.
“Cole and I put our heads together for a lot of practices last year,” Walker said. “It’s been a pretty easy adjustment for the guys. They know me and my coaching style. They know the deal.”
Walker is a 2012 Green Mountain graduate and played his college soccer at Keene State, where he was a goalkeeper. He has extensive experience coaching heading into the head role.
The Chieftains lost only three players from last year’s state title squad, so they’ve come together quickly in early practices.
“We have the core group coming back,” Walker said. “Everybody is better than last year and we have younger guys who can step into larger roles.”
Offensively, the graduation loss of James Anderson is a big one, but Green Mountain has the talent to overcome it.
Everett Mosher, who had 33 goals last year, will be a big part of that.
“(Everett) is very skilled. He knows the game and has a nose for the goal,” Walker said.
Mosher will team up with Ben Manukka up top.
“They work really well together. They’re a strong combo,” Walker said.
The Chieftains’ midfielders, backs and goalkeepers are strong as they come in D-III.
Jack Boyle and Elias Stowell-Aleman will man the middle. Boyle is known for being good in the air and on 50-50 balls, while Stowell-Aleman is a playmaker with great vision of the field.
Sawyer Pippin and Kagan Hance make a strong duo in the back.
“They’re really skilled, vocal and strong kids,” Walker said.
Skyler Klezos will be a stalwart in goal.
“I’ve trained with him since he was a freshman and he’s come a long way,” Walker said. “He’s gotten better every year. His presence is important.”
With so much talent returning, Green Mountain is aiming high.
“(The state championship) has to be the goal,” Walker said. “From Day 1, that’s where our sights are set. We won’t settle for anything less than competing for a state title.”
The Chieftain girls are coming off a 5-10 season, but have an influx of talent joining the squad this year.
Green Mountain picked up six athletes from Black River, which closed down at the end of the 2019-20 school year. In total, they have 21 girls this year.
Senior Hailey Pierce is one of the Black River additions. Pierce was a goalkeeper for the Presidents and provides the Chieftains with another veteran option in net.
Pierce joins senior keeper Alex Hutchins in the goalie group.
“When the goalie goes down, many teams throw someone in net and basically throw in the towel for the game,” said Green Mountain coach Carolynn Hamilton. “Green Mountain will not be in that position ever this year.”
Pierce will see time on defense as well.
Juniors Grace Terrell, Hannah Robinson. Clara Gignoux, Emma Kirdzik and Elizabeth Cavoto will be critical in outside midfield and offensive positions.
“Grace will run teams through subs or beat them napping with her fitness and endurance to run our flanks relentlessly and place crosses into our offensive players,” Hamilton said. “Hannah, Clara, Emma and Elizabeth will add in much needed energy and well-played balls in front of goal and shots on goal as we build in our offense.”
Another Black River addition that figures to play a key offensive role is Riley Paul, who was an all-state selection with the Presidents.
“Riley is a beast. She will be peppering goalies all season long,” Hamilton said. “We will use her in different ways this year offensively to be successful at beating different defenders and types of defenses.”
Junior Kim Cummings takes over as the stalwart of the midfield for the graduated Madison Wilson. Cummings is versatile and can play anywhere on the field.
Green Mountain has plenty of talent on the defensive end. Eva Svec and Black River transfer Mackenzie Martin have become a strong duo in the back.
Maya Farrar returns with plenty of experience from last year, while sophomores Berkley Hutchins, Luna Burkland and Olivia Rubetz add more depth.
Berkley Hutchins started in the back as a freshman.
“Speed, grit and competitive spirit will be in full swing this season from our defense,” Hamilton said.
Senior Tierney O’Brien is also healthy and after battling injuries last year and is expected to be a difference maker.
Chloe Ayer and Jane Thompson are sophomores expected to provide a spark, while the Chieftains have a handful of freshmen getting their feet wet as well.
Green Mountain opens up at home against Division I Brattleboro on Sept. 23.
“The team is full of depth in every position, will be able to substitute without losing a step for needed mask breaks, and look to be a contender and back on the map after a rebuilding year last season,” Hamilton said.
“We love the challenging season schedule with many Division I and II matchups this season. We hope to make this a regular occurrence.”