Seeds released this morning by the Vermont Principals’ Association for local high school soccer and field hockey teams arrived as expected — The VPA’s in-season rankings proved to be accurate.
The only suspense was whether the Mount Abraham boys' soccer team would be awarded the No. 3 or 4 seed for the Division II playoffs. The 6-4-4 Eagles finished tied in the points standings with 7-4-3 Montpelier, and the teams did not meet each other this fall. In breaking the tie, the VPA apparently relied on the Solons’ edge vs. common opponents — Montpelier defeated Green Mt. Valley in those teams’ only meeting, while the Eagles split two games with the Gumbies — rather than Mount Abe’s edge in strength of schedule.
Starting at the top, the highest seed earned by any of the local teams went jointly to Middlebury field hockey and football. The 10-3-1 Tiger stickers received the No. 3 nod for the D-I playoffs. MUHS will entertain No. 6 Colchester (6-6-2) in a quarterfinal at 11 a.m. on Saturday. MUHS defeated the Lakers twice this fall, but it wasn’t easy: the scores were 1-0 and 2-1. And the health of senior standout middie Brandi Whittemore remains uncertain. Up next on Nov. 1 for the Tigers would be a road semi at No. 2 Rutland (11-3) or a home game vs. No. 7 Hartford (6-6-2). Those teams split two games, and an upset is possible. The Tigers played neither this fall. Defending champion South Burlington (12-2) is the top seed and odds-on favorite, but the Tigers split two games with the Rebels this fall, losing away, 8-0, and winning at home, 2-1. The D-I and D-II field hockey finals will be played at the University of Vermont on Nov. 11.
Speaking of D-II field hockey, Otter Valley earned the No. 4 seed with its 8-5-1 record, including solid play vs. D-I competition. The Otters will host Spaulding (7-6-1) on Friday at 3:45 p.m.; they have not met the Tide this fall. Next up would almost certainly be a Nov. 1 semifinal at No. 1 Woodstock. The Wasps defeated OV, 1-0, in Woodstock this fall.
Mount Abe enters the D-II tournament as the No. 7 seed with a 1-8-5 record against only D-I competition. The Eagles open with a 3:45 p.m. Tuesday first-round game vs. No. 10 Burr & Burton (1-11-2); the teams did not meet this fall. If the Eagles advance, they will travel to face No. 2 Windsor (12-1-1) on Friday at Kimball Union Academy.
Back on the soccer pitch, the Eagle boys’ bounce-back season earned them a first-round game against No. 13 Otter Valley (4-10) at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The teams did not meet this season. The winner of that game gets either No. 5 GMVS (7-4) or No. 12 Woodstock (6-8) on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Eagles and Gumbies traded 1-0 wins. OV did not meet the Gumbies, but split a pair of one-goal game with the Wasps, each team winning on its home field.
No. 11 Vergennes (4-8-2) will travel on Tuesday to meet No. 6 Springfield (6-6-1) in another Lake Division-Marble Valley League match-up in which the teams did not face one another. The winner of that contest will meet either No. 3 Montpelier or No. 14 Bellows Falls (3-9-2). VUHS has no 2011 history with those squads, either. Burr & Burton (11-2-1) and U-32 (8-3-3) are the top seeds. South Burlington will host the D-II final on Nov. 5.
MUHS got bumped up to D-I this fall, and on Tuesday at 3:45 will head over the Appalachian Gap to face another team recently moved up to D-I: the No. 12 Tigers (5-6-2) drew No. 5 Harwood (10-3-1). The winner of that contest on Saturday gets either No. 4 South Burlington (9-4-1) or No. 13 BFA-St. Albans (6-8). MUHS has no history this fall with any of those teams.
Like the Eagle boys, the Mount Abe girls’ soccer team rebounded from a tough 2010 to enjoy a strong 2011: At 9-3-2, the Eagles earned the No. 4 seed in D-II. They will host Lake Division foe Missisquoi on Wednesday at 3 p.m. The Eagles and T-Birds battled to a 2-2 tie in Swanton back on Sept. 27. A win on Wednesday would mean a Saturday home game for Mount Abe against either No. 5 Springfield (9-4-1) or No. 13 Vergennes (3-10-1). Neither Mount Abe or VUHS has battled Springfield this fall, but of course the Eagles and Commodores know each other well: The Eagles won twice by 2-1 scores this season, once in overtime.
Otter Valley finished at 2-11-1 after tying and winning their final two games and earned the No. 16 seed. That means a tough challenge on Tuesday for OV, a road date at No. 1 Milton, which has lost only to D-I top seed Champlain Valley. Hartford and Montpelier, both 10-3-1, are the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds. South Burlington will host the D-II final on Nov. 5.
MUHS finished at 4-8-2, tying the program’s high-water mark for wins in the past two decades. The Tigers were 4-4-1 against D-II and D-III competition, but were bumped up to D-I this fall. They are seeded 14th and face defending champion South Burlington (11-3), the No. 3 seed on Wednesday. An upset would mean No. 6 Essex (9-4-1) or No. 11 Burlington (5-7-2) on Saturday.
Photographer Trent Campbell and I will be in Bristol on Tuesday for the OV-Mount Abe boys’ soccer contest and the Eagle field hockey game. We will, of course, also attend Friday night’s MUHS football home playoff game. That’s when the 7-1 Tigers, the No. 3 seed in D-I, will host 5-3 Colchester, the No. 6 seed. The Tigers defeated the Lakers, 25-8, on Oct. 14. A win for MUHS on Friday means a game the following weekend against either No. 2 BFA-St. Albans (7-1) or No. 7 Rutland (4-4). Hartford (8-0) is the top seed. We will also cover at least one other game this weekend, possibly determined by Tuesday’s results.
Best of luck to all.