Men’s soccer kicks off season with two wins

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Zach Elliot

Men’s soccer team takes a picture after 2-1 season opener win

Luke Sugar, Sports Editor

The wait is finally over! Saint Anselm fall sports are officially here with an action-packed Labor Day weekend. 

The men’s soccer team moved into school on August 7 to start their preseason, which included scrimmages against Keene State and Saint Joe’s. Bruno Victal is entering his seventh season as the head coach of the program. Senior goalkeeper Brian Underhill and graduate student forward Zach Elliot are the captains of the Hawks for the 2022 season. 

The Hawks’ first regular season game was Saturday, September 4. And the team kicked off the season the right way, winning their season opener at Caldwell 2-1. 

Fifth-year senior Taylor Silverstein struck first for the Hawks, burying a clutch penalty kick just before halftime. In the 65th minute, senior forward Jackson Bukunt netted a beautiful top corner goal from outside the 18-yard box off a long pass from sophomore midfielder Aiden Lehane. Underhill was a wall in net, making six big saves. 

The Hawks’ next match was on Labor Day versus NE-10 opponent Saint Michael’s. The game was originally scheduled as a home game for the Hawks, but due to weather conditions, it was moved to the Back River Sports Complex in Bedford, New Hampshire. The Hawks picked up a massive 2-1 win over the Purple Knights. 

Senior defender Michael Fortin found Bukunt on a corner kick for the Hawks’ first goal. Bukunt headed home the beautiful cross in the 9th minute for his second goal of the season. Junior midfielder Josue Assantha scored a classy goal, placed perfectly into the bottom left corner to wrap up the Hawks’ scoring in the 42nd minute. Sophomore forward Caden Leader assisted on the give-and-go goal. 

The Hawks improve to 2-0 on the season and look to keep the winning streak alive heading into their home opener versus Roberts Wesleyan. The game will be on September 7 at 3:30 pm.   

The Hawks return a lot of talent from last year with 25 student-athletes coming back. But the Hawks have also reloaded after last season’s departing players, adding 13 newcomers, eight being freshmen, to fill out their 2022 roster. The Hawks have a large cast of leaders on their roster too, which is an enormous part of any successful team. The team has a very balanced roster featuring newcomers and veteran leadership. 

The seniors on the team had nothing but good things to say about their new teammates. “They work hard and keep up the level of play. They’re a good group of kids, and we all got along very quickly,” said Bukunt. 

Some of the seniors mentioned how fast their Saint Anselm careers have gone by. It’s an exciting time being the leaders of the squad, but of course, there is always a lot of responsibility that comes along with being the oldest on the team. 

“It’s weird because it flew by so fast. It’s a bittersweet feeling for sure. But we try not to see class on the field and everyone is equal,” said senior defender Jonathan Alves. 

“We have to lead by example for the younger guys, and make them feel like age doesn’t matter. It can be scary being the oldest on the team, but overall It’s nice being the oldest guys. It’s hard to think that it’s already [the seniors’] last season competing,” added Bukunt. 

Team bonding off the field is also a great way to build chemistry on the field. The Hawks have done a great job of getting the newcomers acclimated to college sports and feeling welcomed by the team. The team has already gone mini golfing during preseason and to Hampton Beach for a day. The team has either lunch or dinner together every day, and the older guys keep the younger players included in almost everything they do. The Hawks have a very closely knit group of guys. 

The NE-10 is always a very talented and tough conference, stacked from top to bottom. Year in and year out truly any team could win the conference. The Hawks know the extreme difficulty of winning the NE-10, but the team still has high expectations for themselves. 

“The big season goal is to win the NE-10, but since we play in a very competitive conference, that’s a big task. At minimum we want to leave our imprint in the league. We want to show everyone we’re a team on the rise and surprise a lot of programs,” said Bukunt. 

The whole team is on the same page with the same mentality heading into the season. “Take one game at a time, and don’t look too far ahead. Focus on winning the next game, that’s all that matters,” said Alves.

“‘The time is now’ is a saying that goes around our locker room and that some of the key leaders on our team mention to highlight that we should focus more on the present and work hard now to achieve our goals,” said Bukunt.

The Hawks look to keep the momentum from their first two wins rolling into the next match. Make sure to show some support to the men’s soccer team in their home opener.