Sports

Fall Sports Report 2022: Mount Abraham Union High School

EAGLE FIELD HOCKEY

BRISTOL — The established team sports at Mount Abraham all started the preseason with a sense of optimism, and meanwhile two new activities joined the fold, even if sign-up for each was limited as school opened. 

FIELD HOCKEY

The team that has made the most news at Mount Abe in recent years, and not only in the fall, has been field hockey. The Eagle stickers under the guidance of longtime Coach Mary Stetson have won 11 Division II titles since 2000, including the past four. 

The program made another headline or two this summer: Stetson stepped down, and her daughter, Jen Myers, a program assistant for the past decade, was hired to take the reins. 

Myers takes over a team with a different look: Six seniors graduated, most of whom played key roles over the past few seasons. But the new coach expects the Eagle upperclassmen to step up and put their own stamp on the program. 

“I’m so excited to watch these juniors and seniors flourish into this. They’ve had such a great opportunity these past few years to play with a great group of six kids who graduated in the spring,” Myers said. “But they learned a lot from them, and it’s been fun even in the first week to make it their own a little bit and lead this group of kids that is so young.”

A conversation about these Eagle seniors starts with central midfielder Madi Gile, a four-year starter, scorer of huge postseason goals, and an athlete recognized as one of Vermont’s top two-way field hockey players.

Gile will anchor a midfield in which she is the only returning starter, although two speedy junior veterans will join her. Morgan Barnard will start on one flank, according to Myers’s preseason plan, and saw significant time at both midfield and forward in 2021. Sarah Heath takes over on the other side after serving as a key member of the forward line rotation a year ago. 

The final midfield starter is freshman Maris LaPerle, who will line up at defensive central middie. Junior Grace Orvis will spell the midfielders, Myers said, unless she starts at flank defender. 

About that defense: Myers believes it will be an Eagle strong point. Senior Payton Vincent is a multi-year starter in the middle, as is senior Natalie Adams on one flank. Either sophomore Bella Hartwell or Orvis will start on the other side. 

“I am definitely looking forward to watching our defense,” said Myers. 

She added junior Greta Jennison is “totally ready” to take over in goal after working with the varsity for two years, and sophomore Rory Hendee will back her up. 

Senior Olivia Campbell proved capable of scoring goals in bunches a year ago and should set the tone for a young group up front, Myers said. The rest of the forward crew includes sophomores Paden Lathrop and Lilyana Case and freshman Addison Wright.

Myers is mindful a new-look Eagle team will once again look to be competitive against a challenging Metro Conference schedule heavy with Division-I teams before it reaches the D-II postseason.

“It’s a really tough league. So to compete might not look super successful on a piece of paper, but might be really successful just on things we’re accomplishing on the field,” she said. “I’m a firm believer they can totally get the job done. They can totally compete with everybody in our league. Now it’s their turn to believe that.”

EAGLE FOOTBALL

FOOTBALL

The other big offseason news for Eagle fall teams was that Coach Jeff Stein’s joint Mount Abraham-Vergennes football team was moved down from D-II to D-III, where the Eagles have received some buzz as a potential contender. 

Stein remains cautious, especially because key skill players graduated, and the program’s turnout was modest. Fifteen players will do most of the heavy lifting, he said, with his plans calling for a number of freshmen to help out on special teams to lighten the starters’ load.

But early on Stein liked what he saw. 

“This has been a good offseason. Preseason has been going pretty good,” he said. “Our numbers are small, but I like the 15 we’ve got. They’re positive. They’re working hard. And I think, knock on wood, if we don’t have any injuries we’ve got a solid team.”

Stein also noted the Eagles will be relying on a few younger starters, especially on the offensive line. 

“As long as we can get a couple of our freshmen on the offensive line to step up and do what we think they can do, we should be very competitive,” he said. 

That said, Stein said the move to D-III does not guarantee MAV will have an easy path.

“There’s a lot of good teams in Division III,” he said. “And we lost a lot of talent. We lost 12 guys, and 10 or 11 or them all saw ample minutes so there’s a lot to replace.”

That search included finding a new quarterback, who will be senior Zeke Dubois.

“He’s seeing the field real well and making good decisions,” Stein said.

Dubois and senior offensive tackle Caleb Russell are providing key leadership, he added.

Stein hopes the younger linemen can hold their own and allow him to feature junior Jamison Couture as a lead running back. Junior Jordan McDowell is another top candidate for the backfield.

Catching the ball will be senior tight end/wide receiver Benjamin Brown; junior wideouts Ian Funke, Connor Meacham and Jamison Huizenga; and sophomore wide receiver Tyler White. 

Joining Russell on the O line will be senior Spencer White, juniors Connor Meacham and Wyatt Allenson, sophomore Gerrit Beenen and freshmen Tyson Hallock and Gabriel Roussin — and possibly Couture. 

Especially if Couture lines up in the backfield, Stein said the Eagles might run a little more often than in recent years, maybe 40% of the time.

“We’re going to still throw the ball around. But we understand our personnel and what we have and what our strength is. We have two or three good offensive linemen and making a move to Jamison to running back, we can obviously have more of a ground-and-pound running game,” Stein said.

The MAV defense will use what Stein called “a little bit more of a spread scheme” that will rely on speed and aggression out of a base three-linemen look, with more blitzing incorporated.

Russell, Couture, Allenson, Beenen, Roussin and Hallock will rotate through the D line. The linebackers will be senior Lucas Allen (who can also play safety), McDowell, White, and possibly Allenson. 

Brown, Dubois and White are the safeties, and Funke and Meacham are cornerbacks. 

Stein said there are at least a half-dozen contenders in D-III, but the “bar is set” for the program to host a playoff game.

“But I think for us to do that, other than (avoiding) injuries, is just the kids going out there and playing hard. I know we have the skill level,” Stein said, adding, “It’s going to be a fun season, and a fun group to compete with.”

EAGLE GIRLS SOCCER

GIRLS’ SOCCER

After field hockey, the most successful program at Mount Abe in the fall of 2021 was the girls’ soccer team coached by school Physical Education teacher Dustin Corrigan, now the longest tenured varsity Eagle head coach. The Eagles shrugged off an 0-5 start against D-I competition to reach the D-II semifinal round, and Corrigan in the preseason saw what could be a better group this year.

“Our technical ability has improved a lot,” he said. “We have some new players in the mix and players returning that have raised their level.”

That schedule has not changed much, and the Eagles will again have to weather an early storm. Corrigan said as long as the athletes understand they won’t emerge with a spotless record from that stretch that the tough competition should again help raise their level of play.

“I like starting the season off playing these Metro-level opponents that are really going to challenge us,” he said. “That helps us, ultimately.”

One key returner is Lake Division all-star goalie Joy Toy, a junior. In front of her senior Patricia McNerney, sophomore Mackenzie Griner and freshmen Lillian McClain appeared to be locked into starting roles, with sophomore Brailey Livingston and senior Dakota Larocque challenging for time.

Senior Lucy Parker and junior Annie Dufault return and will start at central midfield, with junior Ellison Thomas and freshman Isla Underwood on the flanks, and Thomas ready to spell the center mids. Senior Abigail Stoddard, junior Piper Guilmette and sophomore Hazel Guilmette are also in the midfield mix. 

Corrigan said he believes the Eagles should be solid in the back and middle with the newcomers getting up to speed quickly playing with their more experienced teammates.

Corrigan plans to start three veterans up front, senior Maia Jensen and juniors Natalie Atkins and Piper Guilmette, with sophomores Hazel Guilmette, Safi Camoura and Hazel Stoddard spelling them.

“We have a lot of good attacking players,” he said, adding, “I think we’re going to be able to score goals.”

If all goes well, Corrigan said those early games should prepare the team for another late-season surge.

“If the ultimate goal is to win a Lake Division championship, win a D-II championship … we should be pretty battle hardened,” he said. 

EAGLE BOYS SOCCER

BOYS’ SOCCER

In 2021, Coach Rider MacCrellish’s Eagle boys’ soccer team mixed in tough setbacks with exhilarating victories, including a road win at Middlebury. But the Eagles lost a hard-fought rubber match with the Tigers in the first round of the D-II postseason.

MacCrellish hopes for more this year after his seniors took it upon themselves to run team training sessions this summer. 

“This is a super dedicated group,” MacCrellish said. “They came in with a lot of energy to have an improved season, especially the seniors.”

The hard work carried over to the preseason, he said, and the Eagles appeared to have bonded 

“They show up to practice ready to work hard, and they take feedback really well,” MacCrellish said. “And they get along with each other well.”

The Eagles have leadership and experience on the defensive end, although there is also one health question. Captain Jake Lucarelli is one of two defensive central midfielder’s along with sophomore Jonah Howell, and MacCrellish planned to deploy senior veterans Chance Denecker and Gavin Bannister as center backs. 

But Bannister was nursing a preseason injury. Until Bannister might be ready, MacCrellish said junior Owen Frizzell will pair with Denecker. 

He added Sawyer Shepard and junior Sam Mangini were likely to start at outside back, while said freshman James Graziadei would start somewhere, either at midfield or defense, and junior Finley Kaeck is also available on D. 

The defense will line up in front of two candidates to start in goal, senior Domenic DeNapoli or junior Luke Bleich.

Senior Sam Tropp will start at offensive central mid, with junior Noah Ladeau spelling him there as well as filling in on the flanks. Flank midfielders include senior Noah Kirshenbaum, juniors Luke Mayer and Jack Breault, plus Graziadei and Kaeck. 

Junior Judah Jackson will start at striker, with the versatile Graziadei a top choice to spell him, according to MacCrellish.

As well as chemistry, the Eagles have skill and quickness, according to their coach.

“We have a lot of similar technical ability across everyone,” MacCrellish said. “A lot of guys have good physical ability and speed.”

And he described the team’s mission.

“I really want to see these guys compete hard and grow consistently every game,” MacCrellish said. “That’s really what our goal is.”

Achieving that goal should have a desirable side effect.

“That will pull us into the postseason with confidence,” he said.

EAGLE CROSS COUNTRY

CROSS COUNTRY

Eagle cross country coaches Eva Friend and Brent Crum are looking forward to spending another season with a group of athletes they say are a joy to work with.  

“We have an exceptional group of students out right now,” Crum said. “As far as gelling as a group goes, they are an A team. They cheer each other on during hill workouts. When it gets difficult they are clapping for each other. It’s a strong cohort of kids.”

Most of the returners from the 2021 state meet are on the girls’ side. Sophomore Kayla Friend cracked the top 30 in D-II, and she and seniors Ruby Jean Hall and Maisy Hill all came in under 30 minutes on the tough Thetford course. 

Senior Norman Benoit is the only returner on the boys’ side who scored at Thetford, coming in 60th in less than 22 minutes. Seniors Sean Davison and William Iliff also performed well last year for the boys’ team.

Coach Friend said athletes, including Davison and Iliff, should step up to fill the scoring shoes after putting in time in the offseason.

“We’ve been working with other runners over the summer who’ve worked really hard,” Friend said, citing, for example, Morgan Barnes, Benoit, Davison, Iliff, Dustin Lavigne and Ryan Cross on the boys’ side. “I’m kind of excited to look at this varsity team.”

Coach Friend also said her daughter has taken a step forward.

“Kayla worked really hard over the summer,” she said. “She’s running currently with the top boys.”

Crum said Hall and Hill help set the tone for the rest of the girls’ team.

 “They’re great to have on the team. They push themselves hard,” he said. 

Crum said among those who could join the three veterans as scorers on the girls’ side are freshman Emily Fritz, who excelled for the Mount Abe middle school team, and sophomore Isabella Shea, a qualifier for the D-II state meet in the 100-meter hurdles.

The coaches acknowledged the team is a little lower in numbers than in some years, but said the group had a strong preseason. And Friend said there are some pluses to a smaller group.

“We’re down a couple runners, but we’re able to work with the runners more individually. It’s been great over the past week or so,” she said. “The training plan coming into preseason was I think a little bit harder than I did last preseason, and everybody seems to be hanging pretty well with it.”

Still, they would welcome more runners.

“We have room for so many more athletes to come out,” Crum said. “It’s a sport that’s about personal growth and improvement and gelling as a team.”

NEW SPORTS

Mount Abe is also launching two new varsity sports this fall, bass fishing and golf, but turnout was light. Three students signed up for bass fishing, which relatively recently earned VPA approval as a varsity activity. They are junior Jordan Schroeder, sophomore Riley Coffey and freshman Owen Jenkins. 

Coach Phil Wade will lead the trio — and any late sign-ups into the sport’s two scheduled events, both at the John Guilmette Access Area in South Hero. One is the VPA Classic High School Tournament on Sept. 17, and the other is the championship tournament on Oct. 8.

Senior Brenden Oxford is the lone Eagle golfer, and he can compete as an individual in Metro Conference events this fall. Shawn Oxford, his father, will serve as the program coach, but plans reportedly call for Oxford to practice along with the Vergennes golfers under the tutelage of their coach, Basin Harbor professional Jason Hughes.

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