High school sports seasons open this weekend

ADDISON COUNTY — While Middlebury Union High School football is the first local team to host a game this fall season (see story at left), several other local squads also swing into action this weekend. By the end of next week all the local football, cross-country, soccer and field hockey athletes will have broken sweats.
One team actually is set to take the field before the Tiger eleven. Otter Valley field hockey will visit perennial Division I power Hartford on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., the first of OV’s three straight road games to open the season, and host Fair Haven in a Sept. 9 home opener. Coach Stacey Edmunds-Brickell’s Otters are coming off a solid 7-6-2 season that included only two losses to D-II competition.
Long-time coach Mary Stetson’s Mount Abraham squad and first-year program head Megan Sears’ Tigers will both open on Tuesday.
The Eagles bounced back to 10-5-1 and into D-II title contention in 2012 and return many key players. They are set to host Colchester at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
Sears takes over a program that won just once after heavy graduation losses from a title team, but MUHS has some key returnees and reinforcements from Sears’ own successful 2012 JV unit. The Tigers will host Mount Mansfield on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Both Ernie Senecal’s cooperative Mount Abe-Vergennes group and Jim Hill’s OV football teams will make their 2013 debut on Saturday at 1 p.m. at home.
The Eagles in 2012 made the D-III playoffs for the second straight season and will open in Bristol vs. league rival U-32.
The Otters were moved down to D-III from D-II for the first time in a number of years, but will face a possibly stiff challenge on Saturday: D-II Fair Haven will take the relatively short bus ride to Brandon. OV finished 2-7 a year ago in D-II.
Three local cross-country teams will make their bow on Saturday. MUHS, VUHS and Mount Abe are all scheduled to attend the Champlain Valley relay meet beginning at 10 a.m.
The Tigers had the best results a year ago, with both the boys’ and girls’ teams taking sixth in D-II championship meet. Coach Chas Lyons will be relying on several newcomers this year, however.
VUHS coach Brad Castillo graduated his top two boys’ runners, but his younger runners showed promise in 2012. There were no female Commodore runners last season, a situation VUHS officials were hoping to rectify this fall.
Eagle coaches Vicki Wright and Brent Crum had good numbers and youth a year ago, and reasonable expectations for progress this fall.
OV coach Jim Samler had a small roster, not enough to score in 2012. But only one team member graduated, and he was looking to rebuild his numbers entering the season. The Otters open at Rutland on Sept. 3 at 4:30 p.m.
Only one soccer team opens this weekend: Coach Muffie Harvey’s Otter boys will take on Fair Haven at 1 p.m. in what is technically a home game, but will be played at Proctor as part of a four-team event there. OV took a step forward in quality of play a year ago, progress not seen in its four-win record, but graduated a dozen seniors and will look to youth this fall.
Of course, the MUHS boys made the most news in 2012, earning the top seed in D-I and reaching the semifinal round. The program also made news in the offseason, as longtime coach Doc Seubert stepped down and Bret Weekes, Seubert’s assistant the past four years, took his place. Like OV, many seniors moved on from MUHS, and how young players gel may determine the Tigers’ results. The Tigers open by hosting Metro power Colchester on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
Coach Mike Corey’s Eagles lost a few starters, but return many key players from a group that finished .500 and reached the D-II semifinal round despite a rash of injuries in 2012. Corey is optimistic about 2013, which is set to begin for Mount Abe when Green Mountain Valley visits on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
Injuries and close losses helped hold Coach Kevin Hayes’ VUHS group to four wins in 2012, and 14 seniors from that roster received diplomas in June. Hayes is hoping youth will be served during his team’s 2013 season, which begins when the Commodores host Stowe at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7.
All four area girls’ soccer teams open simultaneously, this coming Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., two of them against one another: Coach Wendy Leeds’ Tigers will host Coach Dave Brown’s Otters.
The Tigers won five times a year ago, a high-water mark for the past two decades, and despite losing a handful of key players Leeds believes they have depth, talent and chemistry. They also will compete in D-II for the first time in years and could realistically be more competitive in the postseason.
The Otters won four games, but finished strong, going 3-2-2 down the stretch. Although their leading scorer graduated, most starters return as the Otters will look to build on that success.
Coach Dustin Corrigan’s Eagles had the most productive 2012 among local squads, winning 10 games and reaching the semifinal round. Their situation is similar to OV’s: Their top scorer wore a robe in June, as did a couple of valuable role players, but most starters return. The Eagles open on Tuesday with a challenge: D-I Champlain Valley visits.
Finally, although VUHS co-coaches Dwight Irish and Pete Maneen saw their starting goalie and two midfielders graduate, they bring back the balance of a five-win team that was competitive in most of its games last year. The Commodores open by hosting Mill River on Tuesday, and then they will head down to Brandon on Sept. 6 to take on the Otters at 4:30 p.m.

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