On The Ball: Playoffs on tap
It seems like yesterday we were stifling in that 90-plus degree September heat wave, not bundling up and clutching cups of cocoa at football games.
But it’s true: Playoffs in high school boys’ and girls’ soccer and field hockey begin next week. The Vermont Principals’ Association will release playoff pairings sometime in the early afternoon on Monday for the eight Middlebury, Mount Abraham, Otter Valley and Vergennes soccer teams, all of whom compete in Division II; and the D-I MUHS field hockey and D-II OV and Mount Abe teams.
In football, the Tigers, the one team that will see the postseason, probably as the D-II No. 1 seed, have regular season games vs. Colchester and OV before they take aim at the program’s first title since ’03.
On The Ball will return online no later than late afternoon/early evening on Monday with a look at the schedule and match-ups for each of the 11 soccer and field hockey teams through the end of next week.
In the meantime, a few teams in the rest of this week are jockeying for top playoff seeds or first-round home games. OV field hockey stood at 9-2 in the No. 1 position in the Marble Valley League and D-II going in to a tough game at No. 4 Windsor (6-4-2) on Wednesday afternoon. OV won in Brandon, 1-0, but the defending D-II champion Jacks always give the Otters a hard time. OV must also host D-I Rutland (7-5-1) on Friday before closing with what should be a win on Saturday at home vs. Burr & Burton. Harwood (8-1-3) and Woodstock (8-3) are ready to take advantage of an OV misstep and move into the Nos. 1 and 2 spots, but the Otters should hang onto no worse than third. UPDATE OV did lose to Windsor, 2-1, and dropped to third. The result against Rutland now becomes critical if OV wants to move back higher. The Otters would also be doing Middlebury a favor by knocking off the Raiders.
Sticking in D-II, Mount Abe may end up the season with no more than two wins, but have played every game against D-I foes this fall. The Eagles’ quality of play would put them at or near the top in the Marble Valley League, and one D-II coach recently told me the Eagles will be a tough playoff opponent. In D-I field hockey, MUHS (5-4-3) was set to face two other teams entering the week with five wins — Mount Mansfield and Colchester — as the Tigers looked to maintain or improve their No. 5 spot in the D-I rankings. On paper, they will be favored to win both, but they need help to catch CVU (6-3-3) for the No. 4 seed. UPDATE MMU dealt the Tigers a real blow with a 2-1 victory on Wednesday, avenging an earlier 3-0 loss to MUHS. The Tigers are now tied with Colchester for sixth and would really like to win on Friday and avoid a possible quarterfinal at undefeated Hartford. They could move up to fifth depending on how Rutland fares.
Only two local soccer teams stood better than .500 heading into the final four days of the regular season: the Tiger boys (6-4-2) and the VUHS girls (6-5-1). Both are in logjams in the D-II standings. The Tigers could theoretically land anywhere from fourth to 11th, and face two challenging games: 9-3 Milton at home, and 6-6 Rice, which has played a tough schedule, on the road. The VUHS girls are in seventh: A win against visiting D-I BFA-St. Albans (8-4) on Thursday or on the road at Lamoille (5-7) on Saturday should earn them one home playoff game, but a home quarterfinal appears out of reach.
Check back in on Monday for the skinny on all the local teams’ first-round foes.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.