Fall Sports Report 2022: Otter Valley Union High School
BRANDON — As the Otter Valley fall 2022 sports season heats up, a strong field hockey team looks to be competitive, the school’s golf team has its eyes on getting back to the state championship to defend their 2021 title, and competitive soccer and football programs are in the making.
GOLF: REPEAT CHAMPIONS?
Last year the OV boys’ golf team wrapped up what was arguably the greatest golfing season in the school’s history with the NHSGA High School Golf National Invitational Tournament at the famed Pinehurst Golf Course in Pinehurst, N.C.
The boys had snagged OVUHS immortality in the fall of 2021 and qualified for the 53-team national tournament by absolutely crushing the Vermont Division II state tournament — winning their first title since 1969 by 22 strokes over second place Stowe — a victory that the Otters had predicted before the season began.
Though they may have liked to place higher in the national tournament (they finished 47th), the future this fall is bright for the Otter team as 2021 graduate Hayden Bernhardt was the only team member not due back this season to defend its title.
Golf Coach Greg Hughes noted that four of the five state champions from last year (Lucas Politano, Thomas Politano, Matthew Bryant and Jordan Beayon) were back and that while “Hayden was a huge factor in team chemistry and leadership, we have gained a freshman (Jackson Howe) who is doing very well so far in matches and should help the team score come time for states again. We also have Addison Boynton and Rowen Steen returning as sophomores and a new sophomore, Jacob Tripp.”
A team goal, Hughes said, “is to get back to states and do it again. I think our guys have confidence and high hopes to repeat a state victory this year and success to them is reaching that goal. As a coach I would want nothing less of that mentality.”
The OV girls’ golf team did not lose anyone, Hughes said, noting that Anna Lee and Elena Politano (all three of the Politanos are also playing soccer) are now seniors and “looking to improve from last year.”
In the girls’ soccer program, Coach Tammi Blanchard has most of her team returning and is hopeful for a stronger season.
“We are very fortunate to have lost only one senior to graduation, so we have a strong group coming back this year,” she said. “Some players to watch for will be our five seniors: Elena Politano, Bryn Blanchard, Emily Peduto, Ella Brytowski and Lexi Hedding. They are the spine of our team.”
The team will also have an experienced returning goalkeeper in junior Linnea Faulkner, Blanchard said, adding that other players to keep an eye on are juniors Brookelyn Kimball and Sierra Cormany, and sophomores Laura Allen, Randi Lancour, Mallee Richardson, Clara Ciphone, Miley Lape, Lauren Palmer and Savanna Cook. Joining the team this year are a couple strong freshmen, Jazzy Madrigal and Emma Stanley.
“A key to the team’s success this year,” Blanchard said, “is playing together as one unit” while a team focus will be “making purposeful passes and passing to feet.”
“Communicating with one another on and off the field and improving each practice and game would be a ‘successful’ season for our team,” Blanchard added.
While the team “struggled last year (one victory) with injuries and having very few subs on the bench … we made great improvements by the end of the season.” Still the team has its work cut out for them this year.
“There are so many great teams in our division the competition is tough,” Blanchard said. “I am hoping this year to be more competitive and to show our true potential.”
For the OV boys’ soccer program, new Coach Brian Thomas is taking over from seven-year coach Dick Williams. Thomas had been coach of the boy’s JV program at OV and previously had been the assistant and head coach of the school’s middle school soccer program (and previously coached the school’s JV and middle school basketball programs.)
Thomas is looking at a rebuilding season as the team lost “seven outstanding seniors” to graduation and will be “filling the gaps” with seniors Ryden Richardson, Thomas Politano, and goalie Brian Stanley; juniors Alden Decker, Max Derby, Owen Thomas, and goalie Isaiah Wood; and sophomores Lucas Politano, Logan Letourneau, Drew Pelkey, Luke Calvin, Haston Byrne and Kaiden Lee.
Joining the team, Thomas said, were “a highly energetic group of freshmen” including Connor Denis, Brody Lathrop, Jacob Warrell, Timothy Baron, Benjamin McGuigan, Jason Hartwell and Taber Kerins.
Captains of the team are juniors Owen Thomas and Aiden Decker and senior Brian Stanley.
“A successful season would consist of carrying on Coach Williams’s foundation of defending the heck out the ball, maintaining possession and consistently finding the back of the net,” Thomas said. “We just want to compete in every game, whoever we face.”
After a stellar season last year in which OV went 11-3-1, OV field hockey Coach Jodie Keith admits the team has some big holes to fill this year as four starting seniors graduated. OV is nonetheless returning a strong team with good prospects.
“We definitely have some big holes to fill this year,” Keith said. “We had four starters graduate: Riley Keith, Alice Keith, Britney Jackson and Marissa Connors. All had been playing on varsity since 9th grade, so their leadership, skill level and experience at the varsity level will be missed.
“We have 10 returning players, all played on varsity last year. This will be our goalie’s third year on varsity, so having an experienced goalie in the net will be crucial to our success this season,” she added.
Getting more specific, Keith singled out several players to watch this season.
“We have four returning defensive players, one returning midfielder and four returning offensive players. Elizabeth Atherton and Matelin Laporte saw a lot of game time last season and are really stepping up and filling the leadership role on defense that was left when Marissa Connors graduated. Sydney Gallo and Alice Keith worked tirelessly at midfield last year, so having Sydney back this year to help mentor a new player in the midfield position is huge for us. Ryleigh Laporte and Mackenzie McKay started on offense for us last season and are returning this season also.”
The captains for this year’s team are Sydney Gallo, Ryleigh Laporte and Mackenzie McKay.
“The keys to the team’s success are going to be communication and teamwork,” Keith said. “One person playing well isn’t going to win games for us. We need everyone to work hard every day in practice and in games, find each other’s strengths and build on those. In 2021, we had one player graduate, so everyone returning last year was very familiar playing with each other. This year we have seven new players and four of them have earned starting positions. As the season progresses and the returning players and new players build relationships, we will begin to see how strong this team is.”
Looking ahead to the season, Keith noted the team was 3-1 currently with a 4-0 loss to a very good Woodstock team, but on Monday night this week defeated defending Division III state champion Windsor, 2-1.
“I feel that we could be as successful as last season,” Keith said. “This is a very talented group of players and they love playing field hockey — and that’s the most important thing.”
Two interceptions at key moments, and an unfortunate penalty that called back a winning touchdown run off an interception thrown by OV senior quarterback Caleb Whitney, led the Otters to drop their second contest of the season 12-7 to Mill River this past Sunday. They lost to Rice in their season opener. The Otters face Springfield at home this Saturday, Sept. 17.
This year’s team is being led by returning quarterback Whitney and fellow seniors Richard Lafountaine, Cody Pariseau, Tucker Babcock, Keevon Parks, Carter Blair; juniors Gavin Disorda, Luca Polli and Cody Mulcahy; and sophomores Robert Hutchins, Tucker Maranville, Noel Pearsons, Mark Jackson and Isaac Whitney. Head Coach is Jordan Tolar, defensive coordinator is Ken Stanley and assistant coaches are Mitchell Caron, Bill Rose, Alexander Polli and Dylan Stevens-Clark.
For the OVUHS cross country team, Coach Cameron Perta said the team’s season “looks pretty similar to last year! We only graduated one senior, so the program did not lose too many runners. In fact, we’ve even added a few. That being said, we could certainly use a few more runners. Our numbers are pretty small still — especially with the lower grades. We only have one runner below 10th grade.”
Kelsey Adams is the lone senior returning to the 11-person squad. He’ll be supported by juniors Isaiah Bagley, Dillon Ladd, and Baker LaRock; sophomores Luke Calvin, Calvin Ladd, Jiley Lape, Sara Loyzelle, Jazmin Rivera and eighth-grader Jonathan Johnson.
As for the team’s prospects, Perta pointed to improvements with each individual on the team.
“With a sport like cross country, I generally like to define success in terms of individual improvement — how much faster are you compared to last year or compared to the start of the season? Having that kind of mindset always gives you something to strive for.”
The team will compete in 10 races this year.
The Otter Valley Cheerleading squad this year consists of senior Zoe Elliot, juniors Brookelyn Kimball and Lajay O’Connor, sophomore Grace Kenyon, freshman Noelle Seigle, eighth-grader Chloe Thow and seventh-grader Leah Chapin.
Editor’s note: Not all team photos were available by press time; look for them in the Brandon Reporter.
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