Vermonters hope to lead Norwich Men’s Soccer to GNAC title
Badibanga, Nemeye, Swett, and Lashua back on pitch for Cadets
NORTHFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - It has been a long wait for the Norwich men’s soccer program to get back on the pitch for a competitive match.
“You know there’s been I think a pretty steady improvement and 2019 was a good season, but we didn’t get to where we ultimately wanted to be,” said Adam Pfeifer, head coach of the Cadets.
Anxious for the opportunity to bounce back from their semifinal loss in 2019, the Cadets instead had to wait due to the COVID pandemic.
“We actually had like a Zoom meeting, and everybody was working out by his own in the gym,” said Bienfait Badibanga, a Burlington H.S. grad and former GNAC Rookie of the Year. “It was kind of tough because everybody had to deal with his family issues and like personal issues and stuff like that. So it was very hard.”
But after dominating a couple in-state exhibition games this Spring, Norwich is back to chase the prize that eluded them two years ago.
“We want to win a GNAC Championship and we’ll do whatever we can to get that,” said Jami Lashua, a CVU grad and recent transfer in from UVM.
If the Cadets are going to win a conference championship this Fall, four Vermonters will likely have to do some heavy lifting. Badibanga and South Burlington alum Amerlin Nemeye are back, looking to pick up where they left off.
“I feel like this year we have a lot of seniors and juniors that have been to like the semifinals before so it’s gonna help us this year because they already have the experience,” Nemeye said.
And they’ll be bolstered by the additions of a pair of former CVU Redhawks: 2019 Gatorade Vermont Player of the Year Cullen Swett and Lashua.
“It’s been a lot easier because you already have connections with people and it just makes everything a little more fluid,” Swett said. “So like playing with Jami, I’ve played with him since we were probably 12. So it makes playing and also just outside of practices much easier.”
“We all played back in Burlington like for clubs like Synergy, Blackwatch,” Nemeye added. “Having them here at Norwich I think is gonna help us a lot.”
Interestingly enough, all four players won a state title at the high school level, with the Seahorses taking the crown in 2016, the Wolves following in 2017, and the Redhawks going back to back in 2018 and ‘19. The now Cadets believe that championship mindset should pay dividends when the stakes rise this Fall.
“We wanna do the same thing here together,” Badibanga said of the championships. “So everybody who won in like different team but now we trying to win in the same team.”
“Everyone’s got that same mentality and the composure to when the game gets tough, we know what we have to do and how we win it,” Swett added.
But regardless of how the season goes, these four Vermonters are proud to have to opportunity to represent Norwich and their home state.
“This is my second college in Vermont that I’ve been to, and I just really want to win some sort of championship with a Vermont team,” Lashua said. “Then whatever comes next comes next. But that’s just been a goal of mine for a very long time, I want to bring Vermont soccer in general up the ranks, you know what I mean?
The Cadets kick off their regular season next Wednesday when they host NVU-Lyndon.
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