Sports

Spring Sports Report: MUHS teams ready to enjoy the spring

TIGER SOPHOMORE MAX Carpenter comes down with the disc during the Middlebury Union High School ultimate team’s home game vs. Vermont Commons last May. MUHS won, 7-6. Photo by Joe McVeigh

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Union High School offers its students more athletic choices in most seasons than any other two local schools combined, and spring is no exception — athletes can participate in eight sports at the varsity level alone. 

That means more students are involved in healthy activities and having fun, and, yes, more chances for titles. 

The spring of 2023 saw one MUHS track star winning gold twice, two Tiger teams reach state finals, and another group come up just short against an eventual champion in a semifinal match. That track star is back, and all three of those teams are optimistic this spring.

Other MUHS teams believe they are ready for steps forward, or can at the very least point to encouraging signs for the future, such as large turnouts.

In all, it’s safe to say it looks like an interesting spring on Charles Avenue. 

TIGER SOFTBALL 2024

SOFTBALL

Coach Tim Hanley’s softball team a year ago made it to the Division-II final as a No. 5 seed, and the group is looking to add one more playoff win this season, a fair goal considering most of the key athletes are back in the fold. 

“The feeling is we’ve got a lot of returners,” MUHS Activities Director Sean Farrell said. “We should be able to put ourselves in that position again.”

Of course, pitching and catching is critical in softball, and those areas appear to be Tiger strong points. 

Senior Emma Deering and junior Lexi Whitney should again make a potent one-two punch on the mound, with whichever is not pitching probably lining up in the middle infield. 

Senior Sienna Rubright returns behind the plate to handle the pitching staff, with freshman Sarah Bevere the backup. 

Around the infield, junior Meredith Cameron returns at third base, and sophomores Ireland Hanley and Skyler Choiniere look to be set at shortstop and first base, respectively. Hanley could slide over to second while Deering takes over at short if Whitney is on the mound. 

Senior Izzy Wilbur, juniors Lily Dame and Lily Orleans, and sophomores Madison Selleck and Madelyn LaDuke are the outfielders.

Farrell said the Tigers are optimistic: “We’re excited for them to pick up where they left off last year.”

TIGER BASEBALL 2024

BASEBALL

Farrell said most of the Tiger baseball team’s eight seniors have had quite a journey. When they were freshmen, low numbers and a lack of upperclassmen led to the school to decide not to field a varsity team. The next season the group took its lumps as the program returned to varsity. In 2023 they began to gain some traction under Coach Tim Paquette, especially in Lake Division play.

Another step forward is reasonable to expect this year, Farrell said, especially once the Tigers get past a tough early non-league stretch against D-I teams. 

“We’re competitive within the Lake,” he said. “That really tough competition gets you ready for the Division.”

A deep pitching staff should help.

Seniors Carter Paquette and Tim Whitney, juniors Tucker Morter and Alex Sperry and sophomore Gabe Velez look like the starters, Farrell said, with senior Cole Warren, and freshman Ryan Brouillard also available. Paquette will be the top catcher.

Sperry will return at the top of the batting order and play center field, and others who will play key roles offensively and defensively include seniors Aiden LaDuke, Whitney, Warren, Ethan Sweet and Dylan Stowe. Seniors Riley Disorda and Wyatt Stearns will be role players, Farrell said. Sophomore Owen Butterfield and freshman Tucker Wright round out the roster and could swing to JV at times.

With the team’s experience, leadership and deep pitching, there is potential for a breakthrough, Farrell said: “There’s a good chance they’ll make a pretty good run for it in the playoffs.” 

TIGER BOYS’ LACROSSE 2024

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach Matt Rizzo’s boys’ lax team made history in the 2023 D-I semifinal, ending CVU’s nine-year championship streak by knocking off the Redhawks. But in the final, top-seed South Burlington claimed the title at the Tigers. 

But the Tigers have been knocking on the door in recent years. And Farrell said MUHS should be in the mix again this season.

“It’s certainly a seasoned group that’s had that playoff experience,” Farrell said. “You’ve got some younger kids in there, but it’s a real strong group.”

One thing that will be critical will be the performance of the defense in front of a new goalie: Freshman Levi Nuceder is projected to take over between the pipes. Senior defender Noah Doherty Konczal, senior long-stick midfielder Gavin McNulty, junior long-stick midfielder Cam Whitlock, and sophomore defenders Marshall Eddy and Cooke Riney will be tasked with shutting down opposing attacks.

Seniors Jackson Gillett and Gus Hodde return to lead the midfield, along with juniors George Devlin, Landon Kean and Luke Nuceder. Senior Toby Draper is a multi-year starter at attack, where also juniors Angus Blackwell and sophomore Logan McNulty return. Junior Callan Boulanger is likely to handle the faceoffs.

A return to the championship game is something the team can shoot for, according to Farrell. 

“It’s a realistic goal for us because we’re returning so many athletes,” he said.

TIGER BOYS’ TENNIS 2024

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach Ken Schoen’s tennis team has been on a steadily upward trajectory in recent seasons, and last year reached the D-I semifinal round before falling to eventual champion Burlington in a tightly contested match. 

Farrell and Schoen believe the Tigers could be better this spring, even though two singles players have graduated. 

“In talking to Coach, some of our younger players are ready to contribute,” Farrell said. 

Junior Jackson Murray returns at No. 1, and senior Kellan Bartlett will probably move up from No. 3 to No. 2, unless freshman Charles Young, currently penciled in at No. 3, unseats him. Senior Iver Anderson could move up from doubles to take over No. 4 or No. 5, and senior Brian Newton, No. 5 a year ago, or freshman Nate Cook Yoder might hold down the final singles slot. 

Seniors Eddie Fallis, Milo Rees and Eliot Heminway all return after starting on doubles teams a year ago, and one will likely pair up with whoever doesn’t claim the final singles slot. Competition will be stiff, though. 

The team will also be looking to maintain its traditions of good chemistry and sportsmanship while contending for a title.

“They’re a tight group. They really support each other,” Farrell said. “There’s some great leadership with their captains and the seniors on the team to make it really fun, but also very competitive.”

TIGER GIRLS’ TENNIS 2024

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach Dan Comar’s girls’ tennis team is now two years removed from the program’s second of two straight appearances in D-II finals, and for the second straight spring some players have been lost to graduation.

Still, Farrell said the team should have strong senior leadership and an enjoyable season.

“The athletes we have back are great kids. We’ve got three seniors who are great leaders in Amelia Coburn, Audrey Carpenter and Caroline Nicolai,” Farrell said.

Carpenter played mostly at No. 2 a year ago and should take over at No. 1. Nicolai saw time on the singles ladder and should do so again. 

Both doubles pairings who teamed up in the 2023 postseason return: Coburn and junior Piper Farnsworth at No. 1 doubles, and juniors Maryam Khan and Anna Wolosinski at No. 2. Both pairings could team up again, or depending on who emerges among the newcomers as doubles or singles players, those four could also compete for spots on the singles ladder.

The team only won twice in 2023, but were often competitive in their setbacks. For example, the Tigers lost by 4-3 to higher-seeded Harwood in the first round of the playoffs, with the teams splitting four individual matches in tiebreakers.

The Tigers’ cohesion could help them improve that record this spring, according to Farrell.

“They may be a little stronger due to their time together,” he said.

TIGER GIRLS’ LACROSSE 2024

GIRLS’ LACROSSE 

The Tiger girls’ lacrosse team is seeing a fair amount of change this spring. Several key players graduated, and its former coach stepped down late this winter, with team parent Jeff Weaber stepping up to fill the void. 

Weaber has some youth lacrosse coaching experience, and Farrell said Middlebury College Women’s Lacrosse Coach (and former MUHS all-star) Kate Livesay has been generous with her time helping out at preseason practices, and the transition has gone smoothly. 

The Tigers have more often than not won at least one playoff game each year since the championship seasons of 2017 and 2018, but have not been serious title threats. There are plenty of good young players, though, and Farrell believes the team will be competitive.

Key returners include senior defender captain Lily Finn; junior midfielder Ada Weaber, who hopes to make an impact after injury-plagued seasons; junior Ava Schneider, moving out from the goal up to attack; sophomore middie Quinn Doria; and sophomore attacker Kenyon Connors.

Taking over in goal is ninth-grader Ida Blackwell, and joining Finn on defense will be players from a group that includes seniors Brandy Bishop and Hope Bellinger, and juniors Lila Cook Yoder, Margaret Orton, Addison Dunakin and Ronan Young. 

The other midfielders are freshman Isla Weaber, sophomore Lia Calzini, and juniors Juliette Hunsdorfer and Georgia Kiel. Listed on the attack are freshman Isabel Quinn and juniors Pelagia Slater, Addison Schnoor, Sara Kent, Sophia Lawton and Aven Frankovic.

Farrell sees a good blend of seasoned players and newcomers who could make an immediate impact, plus good numbers to create internal competition and depth during games.

“We have players who have some experience, and this could be a year where we bring it together,” he said. “We have some pieces we didn’t have before. I have high hopes for them.”

TIGER BOYS’ TRACK 2024

TRACK & FIELD

Probably the single best bet for a championship at MUHS this spring is junior Jazmyn Hurley. At the 2023 Division II title meet Hurley won both the girls’ 200- and 400-meter races. This past winter, Hurley doubled up again, winning at 55 and 200 meters at the D-II indoor championship meet. 

“We’re expecting a lot of great things out of her,” Farrell said. 

Of course, maybe Hurley shouldn’t look over her shoulder: Sophomore Solstice Binder might be gaining. Binder placed in both the girls’ 100 and 400 a year ago, and joined classmates Grace Ritter, Alixis Williams and Sawyer Witscher on the third-place four-by-400-meter relay team. All four return this spring. 

Also on the girls’ side, junior Beth McIntosh and sophomore Mary Harrington ran on a sixth-place 4×800 team a year ago, but Coach Chris Anderson will have to find new teammates to run with them after the other two runners graduated.

TIGER GIRLS’ TRACK 2024

On the boys’ side, juniors Ethan Spritzer and Keil Broderson and sophomore Kaden Hammond ran on relay teams that either placed or came close a year ago, but others who placed or did well at the state meet have moved on, and those relay groups will have to be rebuilt. 

Farrell acknowledged the numbers are down, but said that would also allow Coach Anderson and his two new assistants, William Haig and Stephen Kelley, to devote more time to individuals on a smaller team and help them develop; thus, he said, it’s possible several could emerge among the team’s returners, 12 sophomores and three freshmen. 

“You’re focus can be greater, and you can kind of push kids a little harder with a small group,” said Farrell, himself a former track and field coach. 

TIGER ULTIMATE 2024

ULTIMATE

The Ultimate program has a problem, but in the long run a good one. Plenty of girls signed on, enough to field a separate girls’ team, but not until after the multi-school administrative deadline to field a varsity team.

As a result, despite having 37 athletes signed up with an almost even split by gender, MUHS has one co-ed Ultimate squad playing a boys’ varsity schedule.

It’s not a matter of wins and losses, as the MUHS Ultimate teams have never had a remarkable record, but enthusiasm for the sport played with throwing discs known by their commercial name Frisbee. It is also a matter of the Tiger teams’ reputation for sportsmanship in competition in which players officiate themselves. 

The issue is that Farrell said it will be difficult for Coaches Michelle Steele and Drew McDowell to find playing time for all the athletes, a fair number of whom are learning the sport. Thus he is looking for other larger schools who might also have extra numbers and be willing to schedule JV coed competition. But as of late in the preseason he was still looking for a JV coach. 

“We’re trying to break it up into a varsity and JV,” he said. “We’re trying to figure that out, and figure out coaching.”

On the field, a number of players return who Farrell said would both help model the ethos of the sport and raise the level of play for the newcomers. He cited as among them seniors Asa Baker-Rouse, Robin Chamberlain, Maura Connelly, Max Carpenter, Bea Porter and Henry Weston, and juniors Matthew Berg and Ian Sinclair.

Farrell also pointed out the original version of Ultimate was coed, and as for the numbers — better late than never.

“Watching the team, they appear to be having a lot of fun,” he said. “They’ve come together, and are looking to grow the program for future teams.”

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