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Heuvelton’s Weidner relishes soccer challenge

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HEUVELTON — Heuvelton senior Alexis Weidner has her opponents to thank for her growing confidence on the soccer field.

In Heuvelton’s first game of the season Weidner scored both of the Bulldogs’ goals in a 2-2 tie with Lisbon, a team Heuvelton expects to contend with for the Northern Athletic Conference’s West Division title.

Both goals came against Lisbon’s Jackie Sovie, a player Weidner knows well.

“Going out and scoring two goals on the best goalie on Section 10, that felt good and it gave me confidence,” Weidner said. “That’s what really made me realize that this season can be very successful as long as I continue to work hard.”

The two goals against Lisbon was just a start for Weidner, who has scored at least two goals in every game Heuvelton’s played this season.

Through the first six games of the year Weidner had helped lead Heuvelton to a 5-0-1 overall record and produced 14 goals and one assist, leading Section 10 in scoring with 29 points. She also led Section 10 in scoring last season.

“She’s still got a lot of improvement to go, she has so much raw talent,” Heuvelton coach Gus Burns said. “She’s such a great skilled soccer player and she’s so fast. I’m hoping she gets better through the season. She’s so fast that she beats a lot of kids strictly by her speed. Her shot has developed better and her on-field leadership has improved.”

When Weidner, one of the team’s tri-captains, was a sophomore she was a secondary scorer as the Bulldogs were led by Emily Ross. But once Ross graduated, Weidner moved into the top scoring spot, though she is just one of several talented players on the team. Hannah Thornhill, who plays on the other side of the field from Weidner, has seven goals and four assists.

One reason Weidner works so well with Thornhill is their relationship in the spring, when Weidner pitches for Heuvelton’s softball team and Thornhill is her catcher.

“We have that compatibility that a softball pitcher and catcher need, and that definitely carries on to soccer,” Weidner said. “We can kind of read each other. We know our abilities and strengths and weaknesses.”

Weidner’s speed requires opponents to use more than one player to defend her. But she also has spent time trying to make sure her success comes from more than just outrunning everyone on the field.

Burns has worked with Weidner in improving the aim of her shots. He said she’s scored on more than half of her shots this season.

“Every day in practice I work on that,” Weidner said. “Wasted opportunities will count as you go into the playoffs. You get fewer opportunities in the bigger games. Mr. Burns does a good job designing drills for me to practice. We do a lot of passing on the go.”

Heuvelton produced a dominant regular season last year, winning the West Division with a 12-1-1 record. But the Bulldogs left the Section 10 playoffs early, falling 2-1 to Parishville-Hopkinton in a three-overtime game in the Section 10 Class D quarterfinals.

The Bulldogs have lined up a test this week to prepare themselves for big games later in the season, as they face defending Section 10 Class D champion Chateaugay in a nonleague game at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at Clarkson University. Chateaugay reached the state championship game a year ago.

“They are a very good passing team and they also have good speed,” Burns said of Chateaugay. “We really match up well. I think it’s going to be a good game. If it’s not, I’m going to be disappointed.”

Said Weidner, “Playing under the lights, and that atmosphere, is what the game is all about. That’s one of the biggest game of our season this year. If we are able to win and come out and play strong with them, it gives me a lot more confidence going into the playoffs this year. Their format is similar to us.”

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