Fall sports seasons set to start at local high schools

ADDISON COUNTY — The 2016 high school fall sports season kicks off this weekend, and by the end of next week all the Middlebury, Mount Abraham, Otter Valley and Vergennes teams will have had their first taste of action.
Football gets things rolling, with two games this Friday night. Otter Valley, coming off its undefeated 2015 season and seeking to defend its Division III crown, will play at divisional rival Spaulding at 7 p.m. OV lost 2,500-yard back Carson Leary and several key linemen to graduation and college programs, but will be looking for its third straight top seed.
At the same time, Middlebury travels down Route 7 to face D-I foe Mount Anthony. The Tigers are coming off three straight undefeated regular seasons and D-I titles in 2013 and 2014; they fell to Rutland in the 2015 final. Coach Dennis Smith’s team lost some players to graduation, but he believes his offensive line will be a strength.
The Mount Abraham-Vergennes football collective hosts its first game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, when D-II rival Burlington drops by Bristol. The Eagles graduated some key players from the team that took some lumps in its first year in D-II, but also welcomes back a number of starters.
The local girls’ soccer season also opens play on Friday, when Otter Valley visits Twin Valley at 6 p.m. The D-III Otters return a number of athletes from the team that posted the program’s first winning record in 2015, prevailing 10 times, including the program’s first playoff victory.
The Vergennes girls, a young team looking to improve on 2015’s four-win season, are up next. The Commodores will host Green Mountain Valley at 11 a.m. on Saturday in a D-II showdown.
The Mount Abe girls again face a tough challenge in their opener, at D-I power Champlain Valley next Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The Eagles failed to defend their 2014 D-II title last fall, but still return a talented roster from the squad that won 10 games and tied for the Lake Division crown.
The MUHS girls won nine times and tied the Eagles and Milton for the Lake title. The Tigers will have new starters in the back, but also return most of their lineup. They also open on this coming Wednesday, when they host Rutland at 4:30 p.m. in a D-I clash.
OV is up first among the boys’ soccer teams. The young Otters, seeking to improve on a 3-9-3 season, will square off against fellow D-II team Fair Haven on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a game to be played at Proctor High School.
The D-II Commodores, another youthful team, are next out of the chute. They will host GMVS at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday as they begin their quest to better 2015’s two-win campaign.
Mount Abe bounced back from an off year to win 10 times in 2015 and will seek to continue that momentum. The Eagles’ season opens on Tuesday with a trip over the Appalachian Gap to GMVS for a 4:30 p.m. D-II contest.
MUHS overcame a slow start to finish with a respectable 6-8-1 record under first-year coach Reeves Livesay a year ago. They will hope to continue that momentum this fall, starting with a 6 p.m. game on Tuesday at D-I foe Rutland.
The MUHS, Mount Abe and VUHS cross country teams are all set to compete at Saturday’s Essex Invitational.
The Tiger boys and girls each finished fifth in D-II at the 2015 state meet in Thetford. Three of the Tiger boys’ scoring runners graduated, while all five of the top-scoring Tiger girls’ runners retain eligibility.
The Eagle girls and boys each recorded eighth-place finishes. Most of their top scorers, including all five boys, were underclassmen a year ago.
The challenge for the Commodore program will be to develop numbers: A year ago neither the girls’ nor the boys’ teams had enough runners to register a score at the state meet, although most went on to compete for the VUHS track teams.
Likewise, the OV program has been short on athletes in recent years, and none competed at the state meet. This season, the Otters open at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Rutland.
Last out of the chute are the area’s three field hockey teams, two of which met in the 2015 D-II final.
The Otters won that contest and return many of the players who helped in their run to the championship, including high-scoring sniper Allison Lowell and goalie Myliah McDonough. OV opens at home on Thursday, Sept. 8, vs. Fair Haven at 4 p.m.
Mount Abe came up one goal short of another D-II title this past fall. Many starters return, although four graduated. The Eagles will open, as always, with a tough Metro Conference game: Mount Mansfield visits at 4 p.m. on Sept. 9.
MUHS will be looking to improve on a five-win season that included one D-I playoff victory. The Tigers also open at home on Sept. 9, when they will host Hartford at 4 p.m.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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