SWANTON — Thunderbird, Kyle Gilbert, played an integral role in the MVU varsity soccer team’s victory over Hartford on Tuesday, October 22nd.

The Thunderbirds (12) upset Hartford (5) in an under the lights game, earning a 1-0 victory and a trip to the quarterfinals.

Gilbert joined the team as a freshman; during that year he played another under the lights game he wouldn’t forget.

“We played Lamoille at home and won in double overtime. Mitchell Bourdeau was a senior that year, and he scored the overtime goal. I ran and gave him a hug, we ran on the field hugging each other.”

“That same thing happened in Hartford,” said Gilbert. “It was a great win under the lights--only this time it was my senior year!”

Gilbert has felt that his team plays their best games under the lights.

“The adrenaline is going and we get pumped up; I knew we were going to win on Tuesday,” said Gilbert. “I’d stand on my head to get the win.”

After a scoreless first half, MVU head coach Jim Hubbard got the team ready for the second half.

“Coach told us we were going to knock one in and shut the door. We scored within 40 seconds into the second half,” said Gilbert. “A Hartford kid took a miss-touch in the back, and Ryan Raleigh brought it back to the right side bottom corner and it was 1-0.”

Hubbard had his own thoughts on the Hartford game.

“We went down on a mission as we were upset by them last year,” said Hubbard. “We had all the confidence in the world and Kyle was the backbone of that.”

“A low cross came in and he was able to bat it down and pounce on it,” said Hubbard. “That was the save of the game.”

Although he’s the last line of defense, Gilbert recognized the efforts of his teammates in the backfield.

“PJ Bouchard, our sweeper, is my cousin, and I love that kid,” said Gilbert. “He works hard every day.”

“Patrick Walked and I have always played sports together,” said Gilbert. “We have a bond of friendship since elementary.”

Caleb Perry, a left back, was injured for some of this year.

“He wanted to play!” said Gilbert. “He played all but 5 minutes of our game against Milton, and he was such a big help.”

Gilbert, Caleb Perry, and teammate Colby Theberge have played together since they were five years old.

“Caleb and Colby are like my brothers,” said Gilbert.

Newcomer, Hazen Luneau, joined the team this year.

“We moved Colby up to center mid to get more offense and Hazen fit the stopper position,” said Gilbert. “He trusted me, listened to me, and got right into position.”

Gilbert and the other Swanton boys met Coach Hubbard in the early years of soccer. Gilbert joined the Swanton youth program in 2010.

“Coach talked to me all through middle school, and kept asking me if I’d be ready for varsity my freshman year,” said Gilbert.

At the time, MVU was playing a tough DI schedule.

“My freshman year I was averaging 5 goals a game,” said Gilbert. “Whether it was freshman jitters or freshman luck. Coach knew I’d come along and buy in and be a very good goalie one day.”

Hubbard proved his dedication to Gilbert, but Hubbard noted that Gilbert’s dedication to the program has never wavered.

“Kyle has played 59 games with the T-Birds. He missed only one game for his brother’s wedding,” said Hubbard.

Hubbard noted that Gilbert has won eleven games over his high school career and accumulated over 600 saves.

“If it hadn’t been for Kyle, we’d have won only one or two games,” said Hubbard. “Kyle is a tremendous leader. He’s never beaten mentally.”

“In the quarterfinal against Milton he came out and made a couple of incredible saves,” said Hubbard. “He’s always there as the last line of defense.”

Gilbert’s love for the net came early, watching his older brother tend the goal for MVU’s varsity hockey team.

“I started asking my mom to let me be a goalie when I was little, and she kept saying no,” said Gilbert, chuckling. “I wanted to play goalie in hockey because of my brother Nick.”

When the goalkeeper position didn’t pan out in hockey, Gilbert turned his sites to soccer.

“I had a blast making diving saves,” said Gilbert. “I loved being in net--flying around, keeping the ball out, every one congratulating you when you make a big save.”

Gilbert has appreciated the bonds he’s formed over the years and the experiences they’ve shared.

“The kids in MVU’s sports programs that I’ve grown up with are so great,” said Gilbert. “They gave me the best four years I could ask for.”

“I’m also grateful to all my coaches for pushing me; Coach Jimmy was always getting after me,” said Gilbert, laughing again, “asking me why my pants or my shoulders weren’t dirty.

“And when I’d make a great save he’d say, ‘there you go; it’s about time.’ His help has meant so much to me.”