2018 in sports: Titles, tragedy, drama and grit
ADDISON COUNTY — Arguably 2018 in Addison County was the year of the female athlete, especially if she wore Mount Abraham Union High School maroon.
Mount Abe girls’ teams won championships in basketball, softball and field hockey.
Meanwhile Eagle senior Lydia Pitts added four more Division II gold medals to her career track and field trophy case, three indoors in the winter and one outdoors in the spring.
Middlebury girls got in on the act, too. The Tiger girls’ Nordic team joined the Tiger boys in winning second straight D-II titles, while the Middlebury College field hockey team rolled to its second straight NCAA Division III title and third in four years.
Two other female athletes, Eagle senior Emma Carter and Middlebury Union senior Keagan Dunbar, both finished their basketball careers with more than 1,600 points scored. And both helped lead their teams to titles, Carter in hoop and Dunbar in girls’ lacrosse.
For another female athlete it was a year of redemption and determination. MUHS senior three-sport standout Andi Boe returned eight months after a major knee injury to help the Tiger girls’ lacrosse team win its second straight championship.
In Vergennes the year ended in heartbreak, as beloved Vergennes Union High School coach and school-based clinician Peter Quinn, 69, died unexpectedly at his Waltham home in December, triggering an outpouring of grief, support for his family, and fond memories.
Other coaches stepped down by choice, three after decades of service and multiple championships.
Many other teams and athletes excelled, accomplished much, experienced great highs or tremendous disappointments and sometimes both, learned about themselves and the meaning of teamwork and cooperation, or just simply enjoyed themselves participating in sports.
Let’s play ball, and look back at 2018.
In January most winter teams were just hitting midseason and trying to establish their identities. But many veterans had already established themselves. Keagan Dunbar, for example, scored an MUHS program-record 41 points in a 67-52 win over Otter Valley. Dunbar finished her MUHS career with 1,625 points.
OV Coach Kelly Trayah summed it up.
“She had a good night,” said Trayah. “Keagan’s a hell of a player.”
Speaking of coaches, longtime Mount Abe boys’ soccer Coach Mike Corey confirmed last winter he would step down. He had coached the Eagle boys’ varsity since 1995, leading the Eagles to titles in 2004 and 2013 and to home playoff games in all but five seasons. Before then he had coached the Eagle girls for several years, and before that at VUHS, where his Commodore girls won a state title. His players recalled starting out with Corey at his annual summer camps just as much as their varsity years.
In mid-February Mount Abe’s Lydia Pitts added to her trophy collection by winning the D-II long jump, triple jump and 55-meter hurdles race at the indoor track championship meet. The Vergennes boys’ four-by-800-meter relay team of Spencer Hurlburt, Xander DeBlois, Gabe Praamsa and Wade Mullin also cruised to a win.
MUHS SENIOR KEAGAN Dunbar makes a move on the basketball court, where she scored more than 1,600 points for the Tigers.
Independent file photo/Trent Campbell
It wasn’t a great year for the Panther men’s hockey team, but in a 2-1 loss to visiting Williams, Middlebury senior goalie Stephen Klein stopped 23 shots to become the program’s all-time saves leader; he would finish with 2,122.
The Panther women’s hoop team played well enough to earn a No. 4 seed in the NESCAC tournament, but No. 5 Wesleyan upset Middlebury in a quarterfinal, and the Panthers finished their season at a respectable 17-8.
VUHS senior forward Lance Bergmans celebrated his senior hoop game in style, with 23 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Missisquoi.
OV senior guard Josh Letourneau also enjoyed his final regular season home game, pouring in 28 points in a win over Woodstock that clinched a home D-II playoff game for the Otters.
Girls’ basketball playoffs were over quickly for VUHS, OV and MUHS, but Mount Abe, the No. 2 seed in D-II, opened by thumping the Otters.
Then the Tiger Nordic skiers clicked on their skis and claimed the county’s first team titles of 2018 in the two-day championships, featuring freestyle racing on Feb. 23 in Craftsbury and classic-style racing on Feb. 26 the Tigers’ home course, Rikert Nordic Center.
The Tiger boys won both days, with senior Sam Hodges finishing first in both races. Also scoring for the Tiger boys were seniors Tom Hussey, Julian Schmitt and Cade Christner; they defeated second-place U-32, 69-94, with times good enough to have won the D-I title.
The girls’ team overcame U-32’s 21-point lead entering the second day and ended up winning by 41-44. Sophomore Malia Hodges won on the first day and finished second on the second day to pace the Tigers. Seniors Isabel Rosenberg, Caroline Kimble and Katherine Koehler joined her on the podium.
The final Saturday of February also saw the conclusion of state wrestling meet at OV. Mount Abraham finished fourth in the division-less event, but was the top finishing team that normally competes in D-II. Coach Nick Mayer’s Eagles were led by junior Roman Mayer’s second-place effort at 132 pounds and thirds from senior Ben Murray at 126 and junior Kevin Pearsall at 182. The only other local wrestler to earn a top-three finish was OV junior Josh Beayon, third at 170.
The MUHS boys’ hockey team finished a solid season in D-I with a close playoff loss. The No. 6 Tigers came up short at No. 2 Stowe, 2-0, in a quarterfinal.
Only one boys’ hoop team won a playoff game: OV, which finished strong to earn the No. 5 seed, held off VUHS, which entered on a three-game winning streak, 52-46. Letourneau and backcourt mate Dylan Mackie combined for 31 points for OV, while Ethan Sausville and Bergmans combined for 29 for VUHS (7-14).
OV then earned a trip to Barre by holding off a Solon rally to win at No. 4 Montpelier, 49-46 in a D-II quarterfinal. Mackie (14 points) and Letourneau (11) paced the Otters. Eventual champion Fair Haven ousted OV in a semifinal, defeating the Otters for the third time last season.
The Panther men’s basketball team, ranked No. 18, earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney and stormed through a regional, beating Lebanon Valley and host No. 10 Eastern Connecticut easily. Senior guard Jack Daly had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists vs. Lebanon, and scored 19 the next day. But in a first-round Sectional game the next weekend MIT ousted the Panthers, 79-76; Middlebury finished 21-7.
The Middlebury College women’s hockey team won its third straight NESCAC playoff championship by defeating Amherst in the final. The Panthers improved to 20-4-3 overall and 16-1-2 against NESCAC foes. Fittingly, seniors Jessica Young, Maddie Winslow and Elizabeth Wulf took care of the scoring. But the next weekend host No. 2 Plattsburgh (24-2-2) edged the Panthers in an NCAA quarterfinal.
Back in Barre, the second-seeded Eagle girls earned a 55-37 seminal victory over No. 3 U-32, closing it with an 18-1 run. Emma Carter tossed in 36 points, and Emma LaRose hit two key free throws to trigger the final surge.
In a defensive struggle, the Eagles defeated No. 1 Fair Haven in the final, 33-25, defeating the Slaters for the second time this winter. Mount Abe held the Slaters without a point in the second period, but also struggled offensively after Carter turned her ankle in a collision with a Slater.
The Slaters rallied and were pressing when LaRose found junior Jalen Cook streaking behind the defense and lofted a long, contested pass that Cook converted to make it 29-25 with 1:15 to go, the key play of the game.
Senior Abby Mansfield sparked the Eagles with five points, five rebounds, seven steals and four forced turnovers. Eagle seniors including Carter, LaRose, Emma Radler, Mansfield and Vanessa Dykstra had been playing together and dreaming of a title since elementary school.
Despite being hobbled, Carter tossed in just enough points in the final to clear 1,600 for her career, finishing with 1,605.
As spring arrived three local high school teams were hoping to repeat their 2017 championship feats: OV baseball, MUHS girls’ lacrosse and Eagle softball, and two achieved that goal.
OV baseball had cruised to the program’s second title in five years in 2017. By any measure the Otters had another outstanding season. They finished 13-5, earned the No. 3 seed in D-II, and played well all season. But they and the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in D-II all ran into a red-hot champion No. 6 Lake Region squad.
Overall, OV junior first baseman/pitcher Josh Beayon hit .550, drove in 26 runs and won six games on the mound, including a no-hitter, and senior center fielder/pitcher Payson Williams batted .530 with 17 runs and 12 stolen bases and earned three pitching wins, including a perfect game at Bellows Falls.
The OV softball season was not remarkable, an 8-10 record. But under the guidance of longtime Coach Pattie Candon the Otters improved dramatically after a 1-6 start and won a playoff game.
What made the season historic was that it was the last of 33 seasons Candon coached OV softball on the field that was named in her honor a few years back. Her tenure included four D-II titles, many thousands of signals for stolen bases and sacrifice bunts, and the undying affection she earned from countless Otters.
The end of the softball season also marked the end of Gabby Poalino’s four-year varsity career on three OV teams: soccer (goalie), basketball (a post player who averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds last winter) and softball (a slugging third baseman). This past season she batted .500, scored 32 runs and stole 22 bases, and was walked 22 times, once with the bases loaded.
MUHS softball survived losing a four-year pitching ace (Payton Buxton, who threw well for Bates College this past spring) to win eight times in the spring, including a first-round playoff upset. Sophomore center fielder Gwen Stafford and junior catcher/pitcher Aby LaRock stood out for the Tigers.
The Tiger baseball team enjoyed a renaissance, winning 11 games, also including a first-round D-I playoff win for the first time in years and a tie with Spaulding for the Lake Division title. Junior pitcher/shortstop Wyatt Cameron picked up six and senior catcher Brian Foote led MUHS.
VUHS baseball managed a five-win season against a tough schedule, and the Commodores posted a first-round D-III playoff victory. Senior Casey Kimball batted a loud .368 for VUHS.
The Eagle nine likewise won five times. Senior shortstop/pitcher Dustin Whitcomb was named the Lake Division Player of the Year after batting .370, scoring 14 runs, not striking out in 63 plate appearances, and compiling a 3-2 pitching mark with an ERA of 1.93.
The competitive Tiger boys’ lacrosse team won eight times, including a first-round D-I playoff game, but nemesis Champlain Valley ended the Tigers’ season again. Senior defender Fyn Fernandez and senior attacker Jack Donahue excelled for the Tigers.
The MUHS boys’ tennis team went 8-4 and earned the No. 6 seed in D-I. Senior Ziven McCarty topped the Tiger ladder.
At the college level the women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s tennis teams made the most noise. Coach Kate Livesay’s women’s lax group won the NESCAC title, came up two goals short of Gettysburg in the NCAA championship game, and finished 20-3.
Panther women’s tennis finished 17-4 and reached the NCAA semifinal round, while the men, after knocking on the door for several years, defeated Bowdoin, 5-3, in the NCAA championship match. The Panthers finished 25-4.
In D-II high school track and field, Mount Abe senior Jackson Counter stole the headlines from his classmate Lydia Pitts, winning both the boys’ shot put and javelin, his first state titles. Pitts won the girls’ long jump and placed second in the 100-meter hurdles and third in the triple jump. Pitts’ title was the 18th of her Mount Abe track career. In D-III track junior Wade Mullin won at 800 meters.
On May 23 the Tiger girls’ lax team got a surprise: Senior Andi Boe had been cleared to play by her medical team. Boe, a three-sport standout and one of the state’s top female high school athletes, had torn her anterior cruciate ligament in a September soccer game, and had also damaged cartilage and another ligament.
Boe, who had dedicated herself to rehab, wasted no time, scoring two quick goals and later adding an assist in what proved to be a 15-6 Tiger home win over Mount Mansfield that helped seal the No. 3 seed in D-I for the defending champs.
In the playoffs the No. 3 Tigers were not favored — they had lost twice to No. 1 Champlain Valley. But they won close quarterfinal and semifinal games with seniors Isabel Rosenberg and Satchel McLaughlin finding the net, and carried a 14-3 record into the final against 16-2 CVU at UVM.
And promptly fell behind, 4-0, after 9:27. But a defense led by seniors Abby Gleason and Keagan Dunbar and junior Lacey Greenamyre allowed only 15 shots on senior goalie Raven Payne, who made big late saves.
TIGER SENIOR DEFENDER Abby Gleason races up the field in the MUHS girls’ lacrosse team’s Division I quarterfinal win over Burr & Burton. Gleason was part of a tough defense that helped the Tigers repeat as D-I champs.
Independent file photo/Trent Campbell
Rosenberg (six goals) and junior Emily Laframboise (three goals) provided the offense in a 13-10 victory — and gave former Tiger standout Brandi Whittemore a championship in her first year as a head coach.
Meanwhile the 18-2 Eagle softball team went coast-to-coast and dunked on its foes to repeat as D-II champs. After a first-round bye, they won their quarterfinal and semifinal playoff games by 10-0 and 29-2, respectively.
As expected, the Eagles faced Fair Haven (16-4) and ace hurler Olivia Bowen in the final, and the Slaters put up more resistance.
But the Eagles were not to be denied. Senior hurler Audrey Shahan tossed a complete-game win, fanning nine, in a 6-4 win. Hits by seniors Katelynn Ouellette and Jenna McArdle and a Shahan sacrifice fly made it 1-0 in the first. In the third, an error, a walk to Emily Aldrich and a Shahan double plated one run, and Brooke Perlee doubled home two more.
The Slaters got a Zoey Cole homer in the fifth to make it 4-1, but hits in the bottom of the inning by Aldrich, McArdle, Shahan and Perlee made it 6-1.
The Slaters fought back with three runs in the sixth on a hit batter, a Bowen double, an intentional walk, a Sydney Rathbun single and an error. But Shahan got the next five batters in order to nail down the repeat title.
Shahan said she and her teammates were confident even when the Slaters rallied: “Our team stays together, we pick each other up, nothing like that gets us down, that’s why we come out like this.”
In summer activities people fished, hiked, biked on roads and trails, tossed horseshoes, played softball, participated in youth sports, went sailing, climbed rocks, took on obstacle courses and endurance races, competed in triathlons, or simply compared their tans.
On Independence Day many of them set aside those pursuits to gather on Bristol’s Main Street for the Great Bristol Outhouse Race. This year they cheered as Needles in Motion, led by veteran Chris Berry and joined by fellow push-and-puller Casey Babcock and rider Lizzie Russell, edged Carter Insurance Agency — Emma Carter, Nate Seley and rider Emily Crowe — for the title of the world’s fastest outhouse squad.
The annual duel in the pool this summer between Champlain Valley Swim League rivals Middlebury Marlins and Vergennes Champs went to the host Champ, 255-203, thanks to their dominance in the relay events.
The Addison County American Legion baseball team this year played better baseball, but so did the rest of the Northern Division, and as a result AC’s record did not improve, and the team finished at 5-16 for the second straight summer.
After the season Coaches Mike Estey and Jim Lutton announced they would step down after a dozen years. AC won the Vermont tournament early in their tenure and nearly claimed the state title again several years ago in Castleton after emerging from the double-elimination tournament’s winners’ bracket undefeated.
The duo of Eric Bergland and Mike Sims won the top flight of Ralph Myhre Golf Course’s Dud Phinney Member-Guest Tournament, a major event on the course calendar every year. Kirk Goodman and Brett Everest finished second.
In a meet held in Essex, the Vergennes Champs finished fourth in the CVSL, getting two wins from 10-and-under swimmer Will Clark and one apiece from Allie Croke and Flint Crary in 14-and-under and 8-and-under races, respectively. The Marlins were eighth, with five swimmers earning second-place results: Holly Staats, Connor McNamara, Archie Milligan and Mitzi Poduschnick.
MIDDLEBURY’S HOLLY STAATS powers her way to a win in the U-14 butterfly event at the Middlebury swim team meet this past July.
Independent file photo/Trent Campbell
A week later at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center in White River Junction both the Champs and Marlins came home with state titles from the Vermont Swim Association.
The Champs won the D-II championship by finishing first in five individual races and one relay, second in four other relays, and third in a fifth relay race.
Almost all of those top finishes were earned by swimmers 12 years old or younger, including Connor Husk, 6, who won two races and broke a state record in the 6-and-under 25-yard backstroke.
Vergennes’ Will Clark won a 10-and-under race, Carlyn Rapoport won an 11-12 race, and Sebastian Giroux and Ellie Brooks won 8-and-under events.
Brooks also joined Ellie Bearor, Petra Fearon and Sophia James to win a girls’ 8-and-under relay.
Meanwhile, the smaller Marlins team relied on older swimmers to take first place in Division IV.
The Marlins did not win any events, but U-18 swimmer Archie Milligan posted two seconds and swam on two third-place relay teams, joining Oliver Poduschnick, Fraser Milligan and Will Carpenter in the freestyle relay, and Fraser Milligan, Poduschnick and Nathan Stone to win the medley relay bronze. Also earning a second-place finish for the Marlins was younger swimmer Lucy Poduschnick.
The Vermont Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl football team picked up the state’s third win in a row over New Hampshire, 24-13, in the 65th annual game, held at Castleton University. MUHS defensive lineman Tyler Hotte helped Vermont hold New Hampshire to 209 yards of total offense, including 51 yards rushing.
Local athletes fared well in events sponsored by Vermont Sun at Lake Dunmore. Veterans Doug Robinson and Steve Hare fared well in their age groups in triathlons, Brandon’s Corey Robinson won a half-marathon, and Monkton’s Chris Coffey, 39, won a pair of triathlons, in one edging his older brother, Cory Coffey, 41, of New Haven.
As always, No. 1 Auto Parts Demo Derby at Field Days drew thousands of fans of motorized mayhem. They watched Kevin Pearsall, Travis LaFountain, Ethan Gevry, Jason Casino and Randy Martin win features on Thursday night, and Ethan Dragon, Caleb Dion, Tristan Durante and Dustin Tierney win features on a muddier track the night before.
In the fall two soccer teams got new leaders for the first time in decades. Mount Abe JV boys’ coach Bobby Russell took over for Mike Corey after Corey’s 23-year stint that included two titles. Russell’s Eagles earned a home playoff game, but was upset.
At Middlebury College assistant Alex Elias, as expected, was promoted to men’s soccer head coach when David Saward stepped down after 33 years, 359 wins, a few NESCAC titles and a 2007 NCAA title that Elias helped win as a central midfield. Elias guided the Panthers to an NCAA tournament appearance.
On the pitch several high school soccer teams did well. The VUHS girls, healthy again with the return of seniors Ciara McClay and juniorEmily Rooney after both missed most or all of 2017, made a run to the D-III final before falling, 2-1, to Thetford. Their junior teammate Sophie Hatch was voted the Lake Division defensive player of the year.
The Commodore boys finished strong and reached the D-III semis before hitting the Stowe buzz saw. Senior Ezekiel Palmer was the Lake Division Player of the Year.
EAGLE SENIOR ETHAN Venman defends against Commodore junior Josias Salomao during Mount Abraham’s 4-0 win this September.
File photo by Mark Bouvier
The Eagle girls also finished on a roll and reached their D-II semifinal before falling in overtime to Rice. Junior midfielders Addy Harris and Mae Peterson set the tone.
The Tiger boys had the best high school season around, winning eight straight games before a D-I quarterfinal setback and finishing with 11 victories. Center midfielders Eben Jackson and Ben Turner, striker Tucker Moulton, and central defenders Ben Crawford and Spencer Doran excelled.
But probably the best single individual soccer season belonged to OV junior Olivia White (pictured below), who produced 27 goals and nine assists for the seven-win Otters while playing midfield, defense or striker as circumstances dictated.
And the best collective soccer season unquestionably went to Coach Peter Kim’s Panther women, who won the NESCAC title at Williams and reached the NCAA final by upsetting the undefeated No. 1 team, only to lose to Williams in a penalty kick shootout. The Panthers’ best season ever finished at 19-2-3, and with the knowledge that most key players return.
In American football the MUHS Tigers again played tough despite being undersized; stop us if you’ve heard that before. The Tigers won six games, including a road playoff contest, before falling to eventual champion Mount Mansfield in a D-I semi. Among those playing well for the Tigers were senior lineman Spencer Cadoret, junior back/cornerback Tyler Buxton, senior tight end/defensive end/punter Wyatt Cameron, senior lineman Josh Kerr, senior receiver/cornerbacks Zach Dunn and Simon Fischer, and junior linebacker Thatcher Trudeau.
Neither the Mount Abe/VUHS collective nor the OV football teams set the world on fire this fall. The Eagles got outstanding two-way seasons from leading rusher and tackler Kevin Pearsall and linemen Jacob Thomas and Cyrus Devine, and they did run the ball well and defeat OV. The Otters got another fine season from quarterback Tyler Rowe, especially throwing to Dylan Mackie, and they finished higher in the D-II standings than the Eagles.
MUHS SOPHOMORE FULLBACK CJ Bryant bursts past a CVU defender during a late-season football victory. The Tigers won six games, including a road playoff contest, during another solid season for the program.
Independent file photo/Trent Campbell
One athlete enjoyed the recent move of varsity golf competition to the fall: OV junior Mia Politano earned the title of D-II girls’ medalist after firing an 87 at Ralph Myhre Golf Course.
In cross-country the Tiger boys’ and girls’ teams each finished third in D-II. Mary Ann Eastman paced the Tiger girls by finishing seventh, and Jack Christner led the boys by taking ninth. The VUHS boys were fifth, their best effort in a number of years. Ben Huston led the Commodores by taking 14th. Noah Engvall led the 14th-place Mount Abraham boys by finishing 36th.
And then there was field hockey. The rebuilding Tiger program took a modest step forward with a better quality of play and two wins, including a playoff victory. A young, balanced OV team led by high-scoring Alia Edmunds won 10 times and as the No. 4 seed in D-II gave the No. 1 Eagles all they could handle in a 2-1 semifinal setback. But Mount Abe defender Maizy Shepard made two remarkable defensive saves, one off Edmunds, and the Eagles got two goals from Jalen Cook to prevail.
The 12-3-3 Eagles then met No. 2 Burr & Burton in the final at UVM in 32-degree weather and driving rain. The Eagles appeared to have the game well in hand with a 2-0 lead well into the second half, but the Bulldogs knotted the score in the late going. In overtime goalie Chessley Jackman made a huge save, and the Eagles transitioned quickly to the other end, and where Cook rapped home the game-winner, her third goal of the game.
The Eagles had been hit hard by graduation, but Jackman and Shepard anchored a rebuilt back line, senior central midfielders Evan Laurent and Casondra Dykstra both excelled in new roles, and Cook led a balanced attack as the Eagles claimed their first title since 2013 and eighth under the guidance of Coach Mary Stetson as fall’s high school season wrapped up on a high note.
Also ending well was the Middlebury College field hockey season: Coach Katharine DeLorenzo’s crew defeated Tufts, 2-0, in the NCAA final, 2-0, for the program’s third title in four years. Sophomore Erin Nicholas scored both goals in that game; the Panthers also defeated Tufts for the NESCAC title. In the semifinal the Panthers defeated Rowan, 4-2, as senior Grace Jennings scored twice and set up a third goal. Both were first-team All-Americans.
Then the winter season began on the lowest note imaginable. VUHS boys’ basketball coach Peter Quinn, 69, died at his Waltham home just days before the Commodores’ opener. Quinn had led both the Commodore boys’ and girls’ teams to more than 100 wins and D-II titles, had been a caring and highly effective school-based clinician at VUHS since 2000, had for two decades before that had run a school for troubled adolescents, and was a devoted husband and father of two sons.
And he was well known by many for decades as a relentless and successful men’s league and pickup basketball player in Addison and Chittenden counties and beyond.
More than a 1,000 attended the Commodore boys’ home opener after his passing. At his family’s request they honored Quinn not with a moment of silence but by creating the raucous gym atmosphere he loved. The resulting standing ovation lasted more than minute, and the crowd at Otter Valley did the same at the Commodores’ next game.
But despite the tragedy the pages on the calendar kept flipping. The OV and Tiger boys’ basketball teams both got off to strong starts, and the Eagle girls showed signs of a successful rebuild. The Tiger boys’ Nordic team breezed to a win in its first meet. The MUHS boys’ hockey team won its first three games.
At the college the men’s basketball team was ranked in the top 25, and the women finished their first semester largely untested, but unbeaten. The women’s hockey team showed its usual quality, and the men’s team looked to have a little more life in its skates.
But on the slopes, courts, fields, mats and diamonds and in the gyms, pools and rinks, 2018 might prove to be a tough act to follow.
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