On the Ball: Playoff seeds are out
OK, the Vermont Principals’ Association released field hockey and soccer pairings this afternoon, and there were few surprises. The VPA’s new in-season “Sports Rankings” – essentially division standings based on scores reported by coaches – proved to be pretty accurate. Teams ended up where they were projected to almost without exception.
That fact means the highest seeds awarded to local high school teams were in field hockey. Otter Valley (10-4) got the No. 3 nod in Division II, and Middlebury (6-5-3) is No. 6 in D-I. Both teams will host games.
OV gets a bye until Friday, when the Otters will host No. 6 Milton (6-4-4) in a quarterfinal. Milton plays in the league consisting of mostly D-III teams; 10 of its 14 games came against D-III foes. The Otters and Yellowjackets did not play each other, and have no common opponents.
Things will get interesting if OV wins, though: The No. 2 seed and probable OV semifinal foe on Saturday morning is Woodstock (11-3), which upset the heavily favored Otters a year ago when OV was the top seed. OV and Woodstock split two games this fall, each winning on the others’ turf, 1-0. The most recent game was an OV win on Oct. 13 that Coach Gary Hodder said may have been his team’s best effort of the season.
Sticking for the moment in D-II, Mount Abraham is the No. 9 seed at 2-11-1. The Eagles play at No. 8 Spaulding (5-7-2) on Tuesday, with the winner to face No. 1 Harwood (10-1-3) on Saturday morning. The Eagles played a schedule against seven D-I teams, twice each. Both Spaulding and Harwood played in the same league as Milton, a much softer schedule. Watching Mount Abe play competitive field hockey this fall against D-I teams like Essex (a tie), Mount Mansfield (an overtime loss), Burlington (a win) and MUHS (a one-goal loss), I see no reason the Eagles cannot compete successfully in the tournament. That’s not a prediction of a trophy, but I won’t be stunned if the Eagles don’t do well or even earn some hardware.
In D-I, MUHS will host winless Burlington on Wednesday in a first-round game. The Tigers defeated the Seahorses twice this fall, 4-0 and 3-0. The only teams to beat them at home are No. 1 South Burlington (14-0) and No. 3 Essex (10-3-1). Speaking of Essex, the Hornets are up next for MUHS on Saturday morning barring a Wednesday shocker. That home loss was by 3-2 in a game the Tigers felt they had outplayed Essex, and in which the Hornets scored the winning goal when the Tiger defense was confused by a loud football whistle on an adjacent field. Essex did win the Oct. 12 rematch on its field, though, 3-1, and the Tigers will have to play better on the road than they have in the past two seasons. If they prevail, defending champion Hartford (13-0) would almost certainly be waiting in a semifinal.
Both the D-I and D-II finals will be played at UVM on Nov. 6.
The MUHS boys’ soccer team had the best season in these parts, and the 6-6-2 Tigers were rewarded with the highest seed in the D-II playoffs, a No. 10 nod. Here’s where the VPA rankings were a little misleading: Woodstock and Rice, both 8-6, were tied in the point standings, but the Wasps were given the higher nod in the rankings. But when the seeds came out, Rice got the nod at No. 6, and Woodstock was No. 7. It’s always hard to predict, but that switch may not hurt the Tigers, who play at Woodstock on Tuesday. The Tigers and Wasps have two common opponents, Fair Haven and Mill River. The Tigers defeated Fair Haven, 8-0, at home, and Mill River, 2-1, at a tournament in Rutland. Woodstock, which played an easier schedule than MUHS, split two one-goal games with Mill River, and defeated the Slaters by 2-1 and 4-0. Even on the road, it’s fair to say the Tigers are at least an even bet. Next up would be No. 2 Missisquoi on Friday. The Tigers tied the T-Birds at home, 1-1, and lost to them on the road, 2-1.
Mount Abe (3-10-1) earned the No. 12 seed, and also drew an interesting match-up: No. 5 Green Mt. Valley (5-3) on Tuesday. The Eagles defeated GMVS at MUHS early in the season, 2-1, although the Gumbies won the rematch in Bristol, 3-0, on Oct. 11.
If the Eagles win, their fate would be tied to that of No. 13 OV (3-10-1), which travels to meet No. 4 Springfield on Tuesday. The winner of the Eagles’ and Otters’ games will play each other. And OV earned a 2-2 tie at Springfield on Oct. 9, although the Cosmos defeated the Otters at Arlington’s season-opening tourney, 3-0. OV and Mount Abe did not play each other, nor did GMVS and OV, nor the Eagles and Springfield.
Finally, No. 14 VUHS (2-10-2) drew a tough assignment on Tuesday: No. 3 Milton (11-3). The Yellowjackets defeated the Commodores at VUHS on Saturday, 6-0, and VUHS has dropped eight straight since a 2-2-2 start.
U-32 (11-1-2) is the top seed, and the final will be played on Nov. 6 at a site to be determined.
The Commodore girls’ 6-6-2 record proved to be good enough for the No. 7 seed in the D-II tournament, and they will host No. 10 U-32 (4-7-3) on Wednesday. The teams have two common foes. The Raiders lost at Montpelier, 4-0; the Solons (No. 1 in D-II at 12-0-2) won at VUHS, 1-0. The Raiders lost at Lamoille, 1-0; the Commodores tied the Lancers this past Saturday, 1-1. If the Commodores prevail, they will travel to No. 2 Milton (13-1) on Saturday. Milton won at VUHS this fall, 2-0.
The tournament looks challenging for the other three local girls’ teams. No. 11 MUHS (2-9-3) plays at No. 6 Springfield (8-6). The teams have one common foe, Fair Haven. The Tigers beat the Slaters, 1-0, and the Cosmos defeated them by 2-0 and 3-0. No. 3 GMVS (7-2) would probably face the winner on Saturday.
No. 12 Mount Abe (2-10-2) plays at No. 5 Hartford (8-4-2) on Tuesday. The teams have no common opponents. No. 4 Harwood would probably face the winner on Saturday, unless No. 13 Otter Valley (2-12) pulls off the upset of the Highlanders on Wednesday. Harwood and OV have no common foes.
Because of our Wednesday noon deadline, we will be unable to feature the MUHS field hockey or VUHS girls’ soccer games in our Thursday print edition. We'll get something in on the Wednesday game by Thursday morning online.
Best of luck to all the teams.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.