Boys Soccer Player of the Year: Brandon Vazquez of Amherst Regional
Brandon Vazquez of Amherst Regional has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Purchase photo reprints »
One of the biggest plays in Amherst Regional boys soccer history probably got lost in everything that happened during the Hurricanes’ penalty kick victory over powerhouse Ludlow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament championship match.
The game-saving stop was made by goalkeeper Curtis Barnes and game-winning PK was converted by Erik Schleeweis, giving the Hurricanes their first-ever title.
“It was a special season,” junior Brandon Vazquez said. “We made history. It was great.”
None of that happens without Brandon Vazquez’s own huge kick.
Vazquez stepped to the line with Ludlow leading 4-3. A miss would have meant another WMass title for the Lions. A make would have continued the kicks.
Vazquez went bottom-left, just inside the crossbar and in.
“It never crossed my mind that he wouldn’t score,” coach Michael Rudd said.
Vazquez took the team’s PKs all year and Rudd decided to have him go fifth in the title game.
“I wanted him in the fifth spot, but I was confident with everyone before and after,” Rudd said. “That he came through was no surprise to me.”
The rest, as the saying goes, was history. Barnes made a dramatic save for force extra kicks and eventually Erik Schleeweis booted the game winner.
Vazquez then had the best game of his career in the state semifinal win over Leominster — scoring the lone goal and dominating the middle to lift the Hurricanes to their first state title game, where Amherst fell short in a 1-0 loss to Needham.
“It was great, great to make it” to the state finals, Vazquez said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t win that game, but you can’t really be mad at yourself about that. We worked so hard to get to that point. You just have to reflect on that performance and wait until next year to try to do that again.”
Vazquez, who took over the team’s central midfielder spot and finished as the leading scorer, is the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
“We needed to figure out the central midfield in order to have success this year,” Rudd said. “One of the things was who was going to be that attacking center midfielder? Someone to control the game. Someone with vision. Brandon was the obvious choice.
“He is an unselfish player, but he does have the willingness to take risks on the field, which is essential for an attacking team. He would take chances in the offensive third which would clear space for others to run on the ball from the wings.”
The Hurricanes were quite deep this season, with junior Eric Gooden leading the way up front and seniors Cody Baglow, Jaimon Olmstead, Isaac Bass, Jack Berg-Schrader and Barnes anchoring the defense, along with sophomore Keith Dixon.
It was the emergence of classmates Vazquez and Gooden that took the team to the next level and, according it Vazquez, it was a season-opening loss to Cathedral that instigated their growth.
“That was a wakeup call for us,” Vazquez said. “I realized I needed to step it up and get the team rolling. I took the initiative helping everyone out and getting everyone focused. I realized it was going to take a lot to get through the season.”
Vazquez owned the state semifinal game, patrolling the midfield, setting up offensive runs for teammates and, finally, breaking through with the game-winning goal on a terrific run that split the defense.
“He had a great game because he played on both sides of the ball,” Rudd said. “His work ethic was so high. I think that will carry through to next season. His work ethic has always been, high, in training, in every month. but that showed him what you can do if every moment matters. He was on the ball every time, he wasn’t he only one, the team played particularly well that game, but it helped that everyone was in the mode. I’m sure it inspired him.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at email@example.com.
Curtis Barnes, senior, Amherst Regional
Paul Delamy, junior, Hopkins Academy
Alex DeSantis, junior, Belchertown
Ryan Dickinson, senior, South Hadley
Nate Flachs, junior, South Hadley
Nate Fournier, senior, Belchertown
Eric Gooden, junior, Amherst Regional
Scott Labrie, senior, Hampshire Regional
Jordan Maurer, senior, Northampton
Zach Parsons, senior, Belchertown
Chris Riel, senior, Belchertown
Trevor Lewicki, senior, Holyoke Catholic
Jaimon Olmstead, senior, Amherst Regional
Sean Quill, senior, Hopkins Academy
Seaver Rickert, senior, Smith Academy
Mat Sulda, senior, Smith Academy
Tyler Szymkowicz, junior, Hopkins Academy
Brandon Vazquez, junior, Amherst Regional
Cody Baglow, senior, Amherst Regional
Isaac Bass, senior, Amherst Regional
Tanner Bzdel, senior, Hampshire Regional
James Cupak, senior, Granby
Justin Edinger, junior, Gateway Regional
Ryan Fisk, senior, Gateway Regional
Nat Hanson, senior, Smith Academy
Tom Heavren, sophomore, Holoke Catholic
James Izatt, junior, Belchertown
Dimitri Kastrinakis, senior, South Hadley
Eric Maryea, senior, South Hadley
Derek McMahon, junior, Smith Academy
Brennan Mitrolka, junior, Hopkins Academy
Keith Natale, junior, Smith Academy
Ben Pitta, junior, Hopkins Academy
Erik Schleeweis, senior, Amherst Regional
Mike Arel, junior, Gateway Regional
Jack Berg-Schrader, senior, Amherst Regional
Marc Chmura, junior, Belchertown
Brandon Cloutier, senior, Granby
Evan Delaney, sophomore, Hopkins Academy
Keith Dixon, sophomore, Amherst Regional
Curtis Dowers, junior, Gateway Regional
Chris Larrow, senior, South Hadley
Harrison Lussier, senior, Granby
Mike Paleologopoulos, senior, South Hadley
Brady Parker, freshman, Easthampton
Ben Preston, junior, Hampshire Regional
Andrew Strycharz, senior, Granby