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High school sports teams build steam for new season

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Posted on August 27, 2014 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



FieldHockey1943.jpg
TIGERS SARA KELLY, left, and Alli White run a drill during field hockey practice in Middlebury Monday afternoon. The Tigers open their season at Mount Mansfield next Tuesday. The Otter Valley field hockey team is the first local squad to take the field this fall; the Otters travel to Woodstock on Friday. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

ADDISON COUNTY — Collectively in terms of wins and losses, the 2013-2014 sports year proved to be memorable for Middlebury, Mount Abraham, Otter Valley and Vergennes union high school teams and athletes.

At least one local squad won a championship in each of the fall, winter and spring seasons.

In the fall, Mount Abe field hockey and boys’ soccer and MUHS football all climbed the mountain, with the Tiger 11 posting an undefeated campaign.

In the winter, the Eagle girls’ basketball and Tiger girls’ hockey teams earned banners, while Commodores Kaegan Pearsall and Chris Castillo won wrestling and indoor track titles.

This past spring, the OV softball team edged VUHS in a scintillating final, and Tigers Max Moulton and Hannah Buttolph claimed individual track and field crowns.

All that might prove to be a tough act to follow over the next 10 months, but then again last year followed a pretty remarkable school year — historically good seasons for VUHS boys’ hoop, Eagle girls’ hoop and OV baseball, to start with.

Athletes will begin trying to write their own history this Friday with four games — OV field hockey and football squads and MUHS and Mount Abe football teams will take the field.

FIELD HOCKEY

Field hockey is up first on Friday. OV, coming off a solid 11-4 season, will host Marble Valley League rival Woodstock at 4 p.m. Next, Fair Haven visits Brandon on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Coach Stacy Edmunds-Brickell’s Otters graduated a handful of senior starters, but also relied on many younger players a year ago.

Longtime coach Mary Stetson’s Eagles will open their Division II title defense on the road next week with a pair of games, at Colchester on Tuesday and at U-32 on Thursday. They are not home until MUHS visits on Sept. 12. The team will have a new look this fall: Eight seniors played key roles as the Eagles cruised through the D-II tournament a year ago.

Second-year coach Megan Sears’ Tigers took a step forward last fall, with four wins and three ties after a one-win season. MUHS lost five starters, but hopes to keep progressing. The Tigers open on Tuesday at Mount Mansfield, and then entertain Hartford on Thursday at 4 p.m.

FOOTBALL

Coach Dennis Smith’s Tigers, of course, hope to repeat their 2013 dream season, but must rebuild their offensive line after four of its members graduated. But a wealth of talent returns to take the field this Friday at Essex at 7 p.m. and next Friday at Hartford at the same hour. The Tigers host Colchester on Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.

Coach Jim Hill’s Otters earned the No. 5 seed and then advanced to a D-III semifinal a year ago. OV fielded a young team overall and returns key skill-position players. They must start on the road, however, against D-II Fair Haven on Friday and then against another 2013 D-III playoff team, Fairfax, on Sept. 6. Their first home game comes on Sept. 13 against 2013 finalist Mill River.

Coach Ernie Senecal’s Mount Abe-VUHS collective made the D-III postseason for the third straight time, but came up short at home vs. OV in the playoff opener. Several key players graduated, and a team with a different look will take the field this Friday at U-32. Rival Winooski visits Bristol on Sept. 6 at 1 p.m.

CROSS COUNTRY

Three cross-country teams swing into action next, all at Champlain Valley’s season-opening relay races at 10 a.m. on Saturday. MUHS, Mt. Abe and Vergennes will all attend that meet.

New coach Aaron DeToledo’s Tiger boys and girls’ teams return most runners, although two of the top three scorers that led the boys’ squad to fourth place in D-II in 2013 graduated.

Likewise, Eagle co-coaches Vicki Wright and Brent Crum saw only light graduation losses, although their top girl runner moved onto college.

VUHS coach Brad Castillo was recruiting after fielding the bare minimum to compete on the boys’ side and having just a couple of female runners on the team in 2013.

New OV coach Kell Giffan’s team will debut at Rutland on Tuesday. Giffan, who replaced longtime program head Jim Samler, will also be marketing his program, as only four Otter boys competed in the state meet last fall. The good news was none were seniors, and OV, unlike VUHS, fielded competitors in the girls’ D-II race.

BOYS’ SOCCER

Boys’ soccer is up next, also on Saturday, with Coach Muffie Harvey’s Otters kicking off vs. Fair Haven at 1 p.m.. The game is technically a home contest, but will be played at Proctor. OV, coming off a five-win season, is on the road on Tuesday at Twin Valley. The Otters lost five players to graduation, but saw many younger athletes play key roles in 2013.

Coach Bret Weekes’ Tiger squad is up next, opening with a challenging D-I game under the lights at Colchester this Wednesday before hosting U-32 on Saturday at 11 a.m. MUHS saw a couple key players graduate, while three more elected not to play in order to focus on their club teams.

Of course, Coach Mike Corey’s Eagles made the headlines last fall, earning the program’s second D-II title with a solid wire-to-wire campaign. Graduation and club defections alike mean a changed roster as the Eagles look to defend their crown, however. Mount Abe opens at Mill River on Sept. 6 and then hosts Fairfax on Sept. 9 at 4:30 p.m.

Coach Kevin Hayes’ rebuilt VUHS team won four times in 2013, but brings back the majority of the athletes who played key roles last fall. The Commodores will begin to seek an overall step forward by visiting Stowe on Sept. 6 and then will host Rice on Sept. 9.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

The girls’ soccer season opens with a local clash: Coach Wendy Leeds’ Tigers will visit OV and new coach Rick Hedding on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. In 2013, the Tigers played better than their two-win regular season record all fall, then proved that point by reaching the D-II semifinal round. Five seniors who were part of the MUHS rotation graduated, but the MUHS roster was deep in 2013.

The Otters will move right onto facing another local team on Friday, when they visit VUHS at 4:30 p.m. Hedding inherited a one-win team that lost eight players to graduation, but said he expects young talent to step up.

Before then, Co-coaches Dwight Irish and Peter Maneen’s Commodores open on Tuesday at Mill River. The Commodores won six times a year ago and return most of the athletes who contributed.

Coach Dustin Corrigan’s Eagles face a tough opening schedule: three straight road games, starting on Tuesday at 4:30 against perennial D-I power Champlain Valley. Their first home game comes on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. vs. Fairfax. In 2013, the Eagles won nine times before falling in a heartbreaking overtime D-II quarterfinal. A half-dozen seniors helped spark Mount Abe a year ago, but plenty of talent also returns.

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