GIRLS' HOOP GAMES
Well, the Vermont Principals’ Association released the girls’ basketball seeds this morning, and it confirmed the bad news for Middlebury, while Otter Valley, Mount Abraham and Vergennes ended up with the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 seeds, respectively, as expected.
All four teams ultimately did well enough to host first-round games, all at 7 p.m. on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
• No. 7 Mount Abe (8-12) is up first, vs. Springfield (4-16) on Tuesday. The teams did not meet this season. The Cosmos have some talent and have played better lately, but did not handle the ball particularly well when I saw them at OV. The Eagles may be able to exploit that weakness with their press.
If the Eagles advance, they will travel to No. 2 Lamoille (19-1) on Saturday. Again, the teams have not met this winter, but they do have three common opponents: OV, No. 1 Milton (19-1) and Randolph. Lamoille beat Randolph twice, 69-20 and 58-40; lost at home to Milton, 47-37; and won at OV, 49-36.
Mount Abe beat Randolph twice, 47-34 and 46-36; lost to Milton twice, 46-32 at home and 66-29 on the road; and won at OV, 49-41. Doesn’t sound like a lost cause for the Eagles.
• On Wednesday, the No. 5 Tigers (13-7) host Missisquoi, a team they beat twice, 48-28 and 49-31. Both times the Tigers had big early leads. Next up on Friday at 7 p.m. they would travel to No. 4 Lyndon (14-6), a team they did not play this year and with which they have no common foes.
Of course, that was the problem come seeding time. (Warning: The faint of heart, easily angered or easily distracted can just skip ahead to the OV bullet. Really. It’s OK.) The Tigers finished in a three-way tie with Lyndon and No. 3 Fair Haven (also 14-6) in the VPA standings.
If the Tigers had finished in a tie with either team, they would have won the tie-breaker. They beat Fair Haven head-to-head, play a tougher schedule, and have a better record against common opponents (OV, Burr & Burton and Mount Abe). The play a much tougher schedule that Lyndon, which faced a dozen D-III foes.
But Lyndon did not play either MUHS or FHUHS, and had no common opponents with either team. In the case of a three-way tie, the VPA does not use individual tie-breakers even if one team owns them all — the default goes to three-way tie-breakers. The No. 1 tie-breaker is the teams’ record against common foes: Doesn’t apply. No. 2 is head-to-head: Doesn’t apply.
To the Tigers’ disadvantage, No. 3 is not strength of schedule: Per the VPA rules, it’s winning percentage. Thus, both Fair Haven and Lyndon both jumped ahead of MUHS. Then the VPA applied strength of schedule to break that tie, and Fair Haven got the No. 3 seed.
There will be a quiz later this week, so I hope you all took notes. Nothing can be done this year, but MUHS officials are working to get the system changed to move strength of schedule higher up the tie-breaking list. My suggestion would be simply to favor the team with all the individual tie-breakers if there is one.
For the record, MUHS won at Fair Haven, 58-40.
• OK, onto OV (9-11), which edged Mount Abe by a single point for the No. 6 seed, and will host No. 11 Woodstock (3-17) on Wednesday. The Otters defeated their Marble Valley League rivals twice this season, 39-28 and 46-35 on the road just last week.
No doubt they will be wary of a field hockey playoff repeat — this fall the Wasps knocked them off in the postseason after two regular-season losses. But if form holds this time, OV will see another familiar MVL foe on Saturday at 2 p.m.: Fair Haven. FHUHS defeated OV twice this season, 51-32, and just this past Friday by 38-23 in the House of Noise.
• The final first-round game pits two 6-14 teams on Wednesday: No. 9 U-32 will visit the newly dubbed Commodore Thomas MacDonough Gymnasium. (Not as catchy as “The Commodome,” but who knows? Maybe it’ll catch on. Nice research by Bobby Worley, regardless.)
Why does VUHS host the game? Sophomore center Hannah Curler hit a free throw with eight seconds to go on Dec. 4, giving VUHS a 52-51 win over the visiting Raiders in the teams’ only meeting this winter.
If VUHS wins again, a road trip to Milton looms on Friday at 7 p.m. Milton defeated VUHS twice this year, 45-27 and 62-42.
HOCKEY TEAMS HOST
Onto hockey, where the seeding has no surprises and requires — promise — no long-winded explanations.
Both the MUHS girls and boys will host first-round games at the Memorial Sports Center on Tuesday, and if successful they will play road quarterfinals at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The MUHS girls were seeded No. 5 after finishing with a 12-8 record in their first year in D-II after a 2-18 regular season last winter. Some of the turnaround came from the softer schedule, no question, but also the Tigers were a deeper, more balanced team.
No. 12 Rice (2-18) is their first-round foe, game time 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. Photographer Trent Campbell and I will be there. The Tigers beat Rice, 4-1, on Jan. 9. Assuming they get past Rice, their more intriguing match-up comes on Saturday: No. 4 Northfield (14-6). Two of the Marauders’ six losses have come to the Tigers, 2-1 in Middlebury back on Jan. 6, and this past Wednesday in Northfield, 3-2.
The Tiger boys got the No. 7 seed with their 8-9-2 mark, not bad at all for a young team that will never be mistaken for the Tiger football team’s offensive line. No. 10 Milton (4-14-1) visits at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Yellowjackets played MUHS tough in a 4-2 loss back in December, but the Tigers scored their season high in a 12-2 home win against them on Jan. 30.
Next up would be a Saturday quarterfinal at No. 2 Missisquoi (16-4). The T-Birds prevailed at home vs. MUHS on Jan. 6, 5-1.
On the Ball will be back, probably on Wednesday night. In the meantime, best of luck to all.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]