Manchester excited to kickoff 2017 Series

MANCHESTER — Building off a successful first year, the Manchester Soccer Series looks to keep growing in its second season.

Last year, the series, which takes place at Applejack Stadium, consisted of four games between August 9 and September 3 and in its second year, the series will continue the trend of hosting a Division I game.

But instead of hosting four games this year, they will host five, starting with a preseason matchup between the University of Vermont women and UMass Amherst on August 10.

"I haven't seen a better grass field [than Applejack Stadium]," said Manchester town manager John O'Keefe, who has been the town manager since 2007. "With teams like Castleton and UVM playing on turf, it is nice to give them a chance to play on grass before the season." Applejack Stadium, which is located at the Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, hosted about 375 fans on game nights during the soccer series.

One change comes in the aesthetic of the field, as the parks and rec department recently purchased a new mower that allows the grass to be cut down to about an inch, instead of the two inches it has been in the past. O'Keefe said it not only affects ball speed, but also how fast the athletes can move around the field.

"We want to give the area some European buzz," said O'Keefe. "We have good resources and have even hired someone to help with tournament development. We have two other fields at the park and are focused on hosting more tournaments in the future."

There are currently two more tournaments scheduled this season and one more next year at the park. The town is planning on building more fields and keeping Applejack as `nerdy,' in a soccer sense, as possible, according to O'Keefe. To continue building on that European buzz, they are experimenting with things like watering the field before the game so that the ball will move faster and have even transformed the penalty hash mark into a nine-foot arch to give the stadium a professional look and feel.

After the UVM-UMass matchup on August 10, the second game is between Castleton University women and Southern Vermont College on Tuesday, August 22, at 7 p.m. The Castleton men will take part in the third game of the series against Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Saturday, August 26, at 6 p.m.

The final pre-season matchup between the Middlebury College women and Williams College on Saturday, September 2, at noon. The final game will be on Wednesday, September 6, at 7 p.m.

While all the other games are preseason games, the Southern Vermont College women will face Lyndon State College in a regular season game, which will mark the first regular season game played in the two-year history of the Manchester Soccer Series.

It will count as Southern Vermont College's first home game after starting the season on the road at Penn State-Altoona.

"I'm really excited for it," said SVC women's coach Mike Zauzig. "It's a nice way to help grow soccer in Southern Vermont. The people around the [Series] are trying to make this push to grow soccer at the youth level but also give people a variety of games to enjoy."

Zauzig said the Series is also good as a recruiting tool to get the college's name out regionally.

"There are kids out there that don't know about us and this way, they can see who we are athletically and academically," Zauzig said.

Beyond that, it's also a great opportunity for his team. The college's field doesn't have lights, so the night game is something different for his team.

"I'm really grateful for the opportunity, it's exciting. Being a college athlete is a privilege and we want to give our athletes a great experience," Zauzig said.

As a part of the Soccer Series, a few of the soccer coaches will be hosting coaching clinics before the games. UVM Coach Kristi Lefebvre will be hosting her clinic on on August 10 before their game. "It's really nice and I'm happy we were invited down," Lefebvre said after last year's soccer series. "It's an incredible venue, players were chirping [on the sideline] saying how beautiful it is. It has a little bit of a European feel, we don't play on grass a ton, but it's good preparation when we do. It's a fun venue, we'd love to come back if they do it again."

Tickets to the games is $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.


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