MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School’s 1-0 upset loss to Champlain Valley on Monday will not cost the Tigers a top-four seed in the Division I playoffs, but it might well mean a road trip for a semifinal game depending on the rest of this week’s results.
The teams that will be the Nos. 5 through 7 seeds in some order — Colchester, Mount Anthony and Hartford — cannot amass enough points in the last week of games to crack the top four in the D-I standings.
Barring a surprise result in Bristol on Wednesday — the 1-7-5 Eagles were hosting 11-2 South Burlington — the defending Division I champion Rebels will be the top seed. The Vermont Principals’ Association will announce playoff pairings on Monday afternoon.
Rutland (9-2) won a key road game at Mount Anthony on this past Monday and can clinch the No. 2 seed by defeating Hartford (6-4-2 as of Tuesday) at home on Friday. That also assumes the Raiders do not schedule any make-up games; none are listed as of Tuesday on their school’s athletic website.
Essex (7-2-3) was tied in the point standings with MUHS as of Tuesday. The Hornets are scheduled to host Mount Mansfield (4-5-2) on Wednesday, a game in which they will be heavily favored.
The 8-3-1 Tigers were set to host Colchester (6-5-2) on Wednesday, and then will entertain Mount Mansfield on Friday.
If Essex wins on Wednesday, after Monday’s setback the Tigers will need to win both of their remaining games to earn third place, assuming Rutland wins on Friday, and second place if Rutland is upset by Hartford.
A loss in either game for the Tigers could mean a fourth-place finish unless Essex was upset on Wednesday. And that would mean not only a more challenging quarterfinal match-up, but also a potential semifinal game on South Burlington’s home turf.
Regardless, the Tigers will finish with a fine winning record despite graduating a half-dozen seniors, and having dealt the Rebels one of their two losses thus far this fall.
But on Monday they could not translate their territorial advantage over the 3-6-4 Redhawks into a goal.
The Tigers earned two of their four penalty corners in the game’s first five minutes, and set up good chances by senior middie Brandi Whittemore that both whistled just wide. In the seventh minute, senior wing Kayla Weiss couldn’t tip home a bouncing drive at the left corner.
CVU’s Jessica Asch made a couple runs, but Tiger junior defender Grace Boucher broke up both.
CVU goalie Evangeline Dunphy (six saves) came up big on the Tigers’ third corner in the 16th minute, and the Redhawk defense broke up a strong rush by senior forwards Chrissy Ritter and Hannah Quinn in the 20th minute. Just before the half, Dunphy saved a Whittemore bid on the Tigers’ final corner of the day.
The Redhawks, having survived the Tiger pressure in the first half, came out harder after the break and gained territory. They earned a corner in the seventh minute, and Tiger goalie Heather Ploof (two saves) did well to kick away a Kathryn Loucks drive from the top of the circle. Defenders Mychaella Devaney and Tiffany Danyow made plays, and in the 20th minute Ploof kicked the ball out of trouble.
But the ball soon came back down the right side, and Loucks shot from a sharp angle. The ball eluded both the defense and Ploof, plunked off the left post and trickled in to make it 1-0 at 19:11.
Down the stretch the Tigers tried to reestablish their attack, but CVU kept hustling to the ball, playing patient defense, and making life hard for the home team.
MUHS did have chances: Middie Maria Ploof sent a reverse sweep to the right post, but the Tigers couldn’t tip it home in the 18th minute; Dunphy saved a Whittemore deflection of another Ploof drive a minute later; Paige Viens created a couple opportunities in the final 10 minutes; and with three minutes to go Whittemore’s close-range, reverse-stick bid sailed wide.
But the Redhawks broke up rushes and cleared with purpose, and ultimately the Tigers were put in the position of having to take care of business both on Friday and this past Wednesday to get as favorable a draw as possible.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]