ADDISON COUNTY AND BRANDON — The Otter Valley boys’ soccer team has the honor of kicking off the local high school sports season this fall: The Otters host Proctor at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 31, when also they will christen OV’s new athletic field behind the building.
Two-and-a-half hours later the OV girls’ soccer team is next up, with an away night game at Mount Anthony. By Sept. 8, when the Middlebury Union boys’ soccer team opens with a 7 p.m. game at Fair Haven, all 18 varsity teams at OV, MUHS, Mount Abraham and Vergennes will have hit the fields or the trails.
OV boys’ soccer, under new coach Mark Quenneville, will be seeking its first winning season in many falls. In 2008, the Otters won four times and missed qualifying for the Division II playoffs by just half a point. Next up after Monday’s home opener vs. Proctor will be a four-team tournament at Springfield on Wednesday and Friday.
Another boys’ soccer team with a new coach, VUHS, is the next to see action. Coach Kevin Hayes replaced Dustin Corrigan — who left after one year to take over the Mount Abe girls’ program — at the helm of the Commodores. VUHS, looking to bounce back from a winless campaign, will open at home at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2, when Poultney visits. The Commodores then travel to Green Mountain Valley on that Friday.
Coach Mike Corey’s Mount Abe team is also looking to bounce back from what was a down year by Eagle standards: The team did not earn a home playoff game and finished at .500. D-I power Champlain Valley visits Bristol on Sept. 8 at 4:30 p.m. to kick off the Eagles’ season.
In 2008, Coach Doc Seubert fielded a veteran Tiger team that had the program’s best success in more than a decade, winning eight games, including a home playoff victory over Mount Abe. A younger Tiger crew will open this season in Fair Haven, and then host a four-team tournament on Sept. 10 and 12. Mount Abe and VUHS will meet in one bracket on that Thursday at 4:30 p.m., while at the same time MUHS and GMVS square off. The event concludes that Saturday.
2008 wasn’t a banner year for girls’ soccer in these parts, and all four local teams will be looking to take steps forward this fall. Coach Dick Williams’ Otters face a challenging start, with a tough four-team tournament at Green Mountain Union on Sept. 11 and 12 following their Aug. 31 evening opener at D-I Mount Anthony. D-I Hartford then visits for OV’s home opener on Sept. 17.
Coach Jen Clark’s MUHS team is coming off consecutive one-win seasons, but this fall will finally be allowed to compete in the D-II postseason. Like OV, the Tigers’ schedule starts tough: D-I Rice will visit at 10 a.m. on Sept. 5, and D-II title contender Harwood follows at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 11.
Corrigan takes over at Mount Abe from longtime coach Connie LaRose, who will have knee surgery this fall. LaRose, also the school’s longtime girls’ basketball coach, had hoped to take a year off and return, but Mount Abe awarded the position to Corrigan, a Mount Abe physical education teacher who has had success in club coaching ranks. The Eagles won five games a year ago; they open at BFA-Fairfax on Saturday, Sept. 5, and then host Mill River on Sept. 9 at 4:30 p.m.
Coach Dwight Irish’s Commodores did well enough to earn a home first-round playoff game a year ago, but were upset and finished at .500. Off-season injuries struck, but the team’s coaches remained optimistic about an experienced group. VUHS opens on Saturday, Sept. 5, at Montpelier, and the Commodores’ first home game comes on Sept. 11 at 4:30 p.m. vs. Colchester.
Once again, the Otters are first up in another sport. New coach Gary Hodder, who replaces Amity Robichaud after several mostly winning seasons, will lead his team into action on Tuesday, Sept. 1, when OV heads to Rutland. The Otters, who finished 7-6-2 in 2008, will play at Burr & Burton on Sept. 5 before their first home game, a rematch with the Bulldogs at 4 p.m. on Sept. 9.
The area’s other two teams open against each other: Coach Kelley Higgins’ Tigers host Coach Mary Stetson’s Eagles at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Sept. 2. The Tigers then play at South Burlington on that Friday, when also the Eagles host Colchester.
The Tigers are coming off their third straight season of reaching at least the D-I semifinal round. They finished 11-5 after losing to eventual champion Champlain Valley in 2008. The Eagles are two years removed from their five-year D-II title run; in 2008 they finished 6-6-3 after a first-round playoff upset.
Coach Dennis Smith enters his second year leading the MUHS program, the first of the three local football teams to see action. The Tigers play at Colchester on Sept. 4 and have their first home game at 7 p.m. on Sept. 11, when Fair Haven visits. Despite losing a dozen and a half key members of the 2007 squad to graduation, the Tigers were competitive in almost every game last year and finished at 3-6, 2-6 in D-I. This year marks the first of at least two years for MUHS football in D-II.
On Sept. 5, the other two area squads open against each other in a renewal of what was once a major D-IV rivalry. Coach Ernie Senecal’s Mount Abe squad, now in D-III, will visit Coach Dennis Perry’s D-II OV unit at 1 p.m. for a game on the Otters’ new field in Brandon.
The Eagles are coming off a 3-6 campaign, while the Otters finished at 1-8. Both missed the playoffs, but each played in a number of competitive games a year ago.
All four local cross-country teams will race for the first time this year on Tuesday, Sept. 1. MUHS, VUHS and Mount Abe will all compete at South Burlington, while OV will head to Rutland. MUHS will host meets on Sept. 22 and Oct. 10, Mount Abe will host on Sept. 29, and OV will welcome rival harriers on Sept. 8. The MUHS runners will also join their local rivals in the D-II ranks this fall.
All four teams will also welcome back some strong veteran runners.
Tiger coach Noah Hurlburt will look to Emily Anderson, Dominique Powers and senior Hilary Swift on the girls’ side, and Neil and Stuart Guertin and Schuyler Klein on the boys’ side. The team also should be boosted by a strong turnout.
Better numbers could also help new coach Jeff Kauffman at VUHS, who will also rely on veterans Ellen Watkins, Lillian and Isabel Hamilton, Chris Parfitt and Mac Sullivan.
Coach Vicki Bronson’s top Eagle runners a year ago were Wendi Bedard, Patience Thompson and Isaac Prescott, while OV coach Jim Samler got excellent performances from young athletes like Clairissa Quigley and Justin McKeighan in 2008. Both will be looking for more depth this fall.