Almost everyone loves an underdog that has nothing to lose in the playoffs.
This year’s Vermont girls soccer tournament could be filled to the brim with those undervalued teams.
While the traditional powerhouses still dominate the Rutland Herald/Times Argus rankings, the first round of the post-season will not be a walk in the park for every elite team.
In Division I, Essex (3-7-1) and St. Johnsbury (5-6) are both dangerous sides that will likely hit the road for playdown matches. Milton (1-8-2), U-32 (4-6-2) and Lamoille (6-5) will be scary opponents who are eyeing Cinderella runs in D-II.
Some of the best D-III teams will cross their fingers and hope to avoid an early meeting with squads like Peoples Academy (2-9) and Thetford (2-8-1). Craftsbury (3-8) and Hazen (0-9-1) are both better than their records indicate in D-IV and will attempt to play the role of giant killers in a few weeks.
A lot is still up in the air as the regular season winds down, with the impact of each match suddenly amplified. This is the time of year when most teams are nursing some injuries and battling sickness, increasing the element of surprise every time players step out on the field.
The likelihood of impeding chaos and upsets in the playoffs is as strong as ever, though some things have remained predictable near the top of all four divisions. CVU, for example, is on track to secure the No. 1 seed in the D-I playoffs for the fifth straight season. In Division II, Rice owns a seven-game winning streak and will attempt to earn a title berth for the fifth season in a row. Stowe is gunning for its first undefeated season in Division III, while Proctor is seeking its 11th straight trip to the D-IV title game.
With a lot on the line during the upcoming week, here are the top-10 and divisional rankings:
1. CVU (9-0-2) Emma Crum beat three opponents to the ball and fired a bending left-footed shot into the upper-left corner during the final minute of CVU’s 3-2 victory over Colchester. Chloe Pecor and Ava Barron tallied one goal apiece for the Redhakws, while Ella Polli and Emma Allaire split time in goal. CVU is also fresh off a 3-0 victory over Mount Mansfield and an 8-0 romp over Brattleboro. The Redhawks will finish up against Essex, South Burlington and BFA-St-Albans.
2. Colchester (7-1-3) A one-goal loss to CVU may be a moral victory for most teams, but the Lakers wanted a better result and will look for payback during playoffs. Maggie Ryan scored Colchester’s first goal against the Redhawks before Bella Jarvis knotted things at 2 in the 71st minute. Sophomore goalie Emily Thompson has been strong for the Lakers, who settled for a scoreless tie against Burlington before earning a 3-2 victory over BFA-St. Albans. Colchester will attempt to get back on track during contests with St. Johnsbury, Essex and Mount Mansfield.
3. South Burlington (8-2-1) Madison King-Thurber headed in a corner kick in the 25th minute and keeper Mercedes Rozzi stopped seven shots in a 1-0 victory over Mount Mansfield. The Wolves shut out Johnsbury, 2-0, and will close out the regular season by facing BFA-St. Albans, CVU and Burlington.
4. Burlington (7-1-3) The Seahorses are still ahead of the Wolves in the D-I standings following a scoreless tie with Colchester and narrow victories over Milton and Essex. Rosie Perkinson scored in the 89th minute against the Hornets and teammate Vivian Halladay made nine saves in the shutout. Burlington will have to stay sharp during upcoming matches against Mount Mansfield, St. Johnsbury at South Burlington.
5. Harwood (10-0-1) Tanum Nelson (29 goals) and Louisa Thomsen (22 goals) lead a Highlanders side that has outscored opponents 85-6. Harwood cleared two huge hurdles by outlasting North Country, 4-2, and shutting out Montpelier, 4-0. Six players scored during Wednesday’s 12-0 win over GMVS. HU will attempt to carry that momentum into showdowns with Paine Mountain, Stowe and Spaulding.
6. Rice (8-4) Goals by Maddie Goddard, Cassie Beste, Maris Lynn and Berit Gross propelled the Green Knights past Middlebury, 4-1. Keeper Sunshine Clark made seven saves against the Tigers after stopping two shots in a 6-0 victory over Vergennes. Rice is attempting to overtake Fair Haven and Stratton in the D-II rankings, with matches against Mount Abraham and Milton on the horizon.
7. Mount Mansfield (6-4-1) Keeper Bryn Hennessey (12 saves) was exceptional during her team’s one-goal loss to South Burlington. The Cougars beat the Wolves midway through the season and both teams could easily match up against each other again in the quarterfinals. MMU has tough tests remaining against Burlington, BFA-St. Albans and Colchester.
8. Rutland (8-3) The Ravens were 1-3 at the start of the season after losing to Colchester, Burlington and Essex. They bounced back with seven straight victories, including 1-0 wins over Burr & Burton, Middlebury, Mount Abraham and Brattleboro. Rutland is likely to clinch a home playoff game with victories over Brattleboro and Mount Anthony.
9. Stowe (11-0-1) The Raiders tied U-32 and held on for one-goal victories over Spaulding, Paine Mountain, Lamoille and Peoples Academy. Coach Tyler Post’s team entered the 2020 post-season as the No. 10 seed with a 2-6 record before running the table with victories over Paine Mountain, Thetford, Windsor and Vergennes. Stowe will host North Country on Saturday before traveling to play Harwood next week.
10. Essex (3-7-1) The Hornets outshot Burlington 9-4 but walked away with an overtime loss. Goalie Kelsie Scanlon was a standout during a 1-1 tie with Burr & Burton and a 6-1 victory over BFA-St. Albans. A late-season draw wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as Essex prepares to face CVU, Colchester and St. Johnsbury.
TOP FIVE TEAMSDIVISION I
1. CVU (9-0-2) 2. Colchester (7-1-3) 3. South Burlington (8-2-1) 4. Burlington (7-1-3) 5. Mt. Mansfield (6-4-1)
1. Harwood (10-0-1) 2. Rice (8-4) 3. Montpelier (6-3-1) 4. Fair Haven (8-2-2) 5. Woodstock (7-2-1)
1. Stowe (11-0-1) 2. Paine Mt. (8-3) 3. Leland & Gray (10-2) 4. BFA-Fairfax (8-1-1) 5. Thetford (2-8-1)
1. Proctor (11-0) 2. MSJ (6-2-1) 3. West Rutland (9-3) 4. Poultney (6-5-1) 5. Arlington (5-5)