The Belfast Area High School boys varsity soccer team is back on the field preparing for the upcoming season. And at the helm of the Lions is a new face, a coach who hopes to lead the program to new heights.

Burke Hazard has been named the new Lions’ coach, according to athletic director Mark Babin. The 26-year-old Hazard replaces veteran coach Carl Violette, who led the Lions for several seasons.

Hazard graduated from the University of Southern Maine in May with a degree in exercise science, and also is a 2003 graduate of Mount Ararat High School of Topsham.

“I’m very excited,” Hazard said. “I got the job before I graduated, I believe in May. I got word from Mr. Babin and he offered me the job, and I took it on the spot. I applied to a couple of places [but] I only interviewed here, and I felt like I had a good chance of getting the job after I interviewed. Once he offered me the job I didn’t interview anywhere else. I knew I wanted to coach here.”

While the fresh-faced Hazard has only been a college graduate a few months, his new gig is not his first legitimate coaching job. Hazard was the assistant boys soccer coach for the University of Southern Maine last year, after having played with the Huskies for four years.

“That was an amazing experience,” he said. “Not many kids that are enrolled in school get the chance to do that.”

Hazard was a defender and also played center back for USM, in addition to some time at midfield.

Admittedly, defense is Hazard’s mantra. And with a talented crop of players, he plans to utilize them to try and shut down some of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B’s top teams.

“We have a lot of potential to put the ball in the net this year and we’ve got some really talented guys all-around,” the coach said. “We have a really strong, athletic goalkeeper, we have some great defenders and we have some great offense and midfield too. But my strategy is definitely defense first. I put a priority on that. You can’t lose if you don’t let up any goals.”

Coach Hazard has worked with the Lions over the summer during the summer league set up by Camden Hills coach Ryan Hurley, which showcased many Midcoast teams. That time spent together on the field and on the sidelines has helped the Lions bond and appear on the same page as the regular season approaches.

“I think they’ve adapted very well to my style of coaching,” Hazard said. ” I haven’t had a problem with any of them. They’re all really good kids, they all want to be here and they’re all working hard.”

In a nutshell, Hazard said he could not have put himself in a better position to succeed on the soccer field than the one he has found himself in with the Lions.

“We have a ton of talent and I’m really looking forward to the season,” he said. “I think we have a lot of potential.”

Hazard is a personal trainer and fitness specialist who works in Freeport. He lives in Gardiner with his girlfriend, Lindsey.

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.