Wednesday brought mostly good news for local high school teams playing first-round playoff games, with two higher seeds advancing and two lower-seeded squads pulling off road upsets.
The highest seed in action was the No. 4 Mount Abraham Union girls’ soccer team in Division II. The Eagles moved to 9-4-1 by cruising past visiting No. 12 Woodstock, 4-0, a result that dropped the Wasps to 5-10. The Eagle defenders held the Wasps to one shot on goalie Zoe Cassels-Brown, and one of those defenders, Harlie Vincent, opened the scoring for Mount Abe by netting a penalty kick with 10:29 left in the first half.
Stephanie White made it 2-0 at halftime by converting an M.K. Charnley feed, and Mount Abe added second-half goals by Ashlie Fay andErnesta McIntosh, with Meghan Livingston andMary Kate Clark picking up the assists. Woodstock goalie Kaila Lemmer made nine saves. Next up for the Eagles is a 2 p.m. Saturday quarterfinal over the mountain at No. 4 Harwood (11-3-1), a 7-1 winner over Lamoille on Wednesday.
Also winning as a higher seed on Wednesday was the No. 8 Middlebury Union field hockey team, which topped visiting No. 9 Mount Mansfield, 3-2, in a D-I matchup. The victory was the Tigers’ first at home this fall, and it avenged a 6-1 loss at MMU when the Tigers were without two injured starters. MUHS improved to 4-7-3 heading into a quarterfinal at No. 1 Essex (10-1-3) on Saturday at 3 p.m., while MMU fell to 4-7-1. The Tigers held edges of 8-5 in shots on goal and 12-7 in penalty corners.
MMU took the lead in the second minute on the first of two Hattie Hevrin goals. That lead held until 16:40 of the second half, when Sara Kelley made it 1-1 by poking home a loose ball in a scramble created by a senior Kiera Kirkaldy’s serve on a restart. Senior Paige Viens swept in a feed by senior Kate Knowles home at 5:31 to make it 2-1, and Knowles made it 3-1 at 3:54 after taking a Viens injection on a penalty corner. Hevrin scored at 0:08 for MMU. Tiger goalie Baily Ryan made four saves, and the Tigers’ fourth senior, Jess Brisson, had a strong game on defense.
The MUHS girls’ soccer team, No. 15 in D-II, pulled off the biggest upset, knocking off host No. 2 Lake Region, 2-0. LRU dropped to 12-3; of those 12 wins only two came against D-II competition, however. The Tigers improved to 3-12 and snapped two streaks: They had not won since starting the season 2-0, and had not scored in their past nine games. The victory earned MUHS a quarterfinal date at No. 7 Montpelier (8-6-1) on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Tigers broke their scoreless streak early on. In the 14th minute, Kat Townshend converted a cross from Sara Boe to give MUHS the lead. At 4:31 of the second half, Boe received the ball in the box and turned and fired into the lower right corner to make it 2-0. Coach Wendy Leeds said freshman goalie Riley Fenster — recently pressed into duty when starter Molly Campbell suffered a season-ending injury — made a couple key saves among her total of nine, and that defender Claire Armstrong excelled in marking LRU standout Tyrah Urie. The only other team to shut out LRU this season is undefeated D-III powerhouse Peoples. LRU goalie Jordyn Cowles made 10 saves.
Also notching a road upset was the No. 7 Vergennes Union boys’ soccer team, also by a 2-0 score: The Commodores blanked host No. 7 U-32 by that count to advance in the D-II playoffs. VUHS improved to 5-8-2 and will visit No. 2 Montpelier on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. That game is a rematch of a 3-1 Solon win at VUHS on Sept. 13. That match was competitive: The Commodores had a 14-12 edge in shots on goal.
On Wednesday, defender Josh Benning stepped into the attack and gave VUHS the lead in the 10th minute with a header. Twelve minutes later, Dana Ambrose bent a corner kick home to make it 2-0. The VUHS defense and goalie Dylan Raymond (seven saves) did the rest of the work. Mackinley Shaffer made eight saves for the Raiders (7-7-1).
The upsets ended there. In D-II girls’ soccer, host No. 8 Springfield defeated No. 9 VUHS, 3-0. Co-coach Peter Maneen said the VUHS defense, especially Kareena Vorsteveld andSara Stearns, and goalie K.C. Ambrose played well against a team that had scored 39 goals in 14 games, allowing only one goal in the run of play. Two Cosmo goals came on penalty kicks, both struck well by Chelsea McAllister. VUHS finished at 6-8, and Springfield improved to 7-7-1.
Finally, D-II boys’ soccer No. 4 seed Rice (9-5-1) brushed aside visiting Otter Valley, 9-0. OV, a team dealing with late-season injuries, finished at 5-10.
The area’s three football teams will begin their playoff quests this weekend: No. 1 MUHS (8-0) will host No. 8 St. Johnsbury (3-5) in a Friday night D-I quarterfinal at 7 p.m., and in a D-III quarterfinal No. 4 Mount Abe (6-2) will host No. 5 OV (5-2) on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Also this weekend, the Eagle boys’ soccer team, No. 1 in D-II at 14-1, will host No. 8 Milton (7-7-1) on Friday at 3 p.m; the No. 3 Eagle field hockey team (7-3-3) opens the D-II playoffs by hosting No. 6 Spaulding (9-5) at 3:45 p.m. on Friday; and the No. 2 OV field hockey team (11-3) makes its postseason debut by hosting No. 7 Harwood (10-5) on Saturday at 3 p.m. in another D-II quarterfinal.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.