Spaulding and Rice girls soccer players battle for control of the ball during a game in South Burlington.

It’s the Year of the Pig, according to the Chinese zodiac, but this fall could be all about the dark horse in Vermont girls soccer.

The latest Rutland Herald / Times Argus rankings are filled with accomplished teams that are gunning for home-field advantage in the playoffs. CVU (10-0), U-32 (9-1), Vergennes (6-3-1) and Proctor (10-0) lead their respective divisions and are all on track to lock up the No. 1 seeds. The next two weeks will decide a lot for every team near the top of the heap, and what lurks beneath is a frightening scene.

In Division I, Rutland (3-7), Spaulding (3-7) and Mount Mansfield (4-6) are teams that will likely hit the road for the post-season. And they’re all scary. At the start of the season, Rutland lost to Metro Division powers Colchester, Burlington, Essex and CVU by a combined total of 26-5. But on Monday, the Raiders snapped Mount Abraham’s eight-game winning streak. The Raiders suffered a 2-0 loss against Essex and would love a rematch with the Hornets in the playdowns. Spaulding boasts a 6-0 victory over Milton, while Mount Mansfield could face a quarterfinal match at Burlington after the two teams split.

Milton and Rice have faced off in the last two D-II title games and they both could be on the road for playoffs. The Yellowjackets (4-5-1) are four-time defending champs and they’ve won three straight following one-goal victories over Middlebury, Rice and Spaulding. The Yellowjackets are ranked ninth in the standings and will be a playoff opponent most coaches hope to avoid. Stratton (5-0) has outscored teams 18-1 and is battling with Harwood (7-3) for the No. 7 spot in the D-II rankings.

In Division III, Northfield-Williamstown (3-5-1) showcased its potential during a 1-0 loss against Peoples and a 3-2 win over Lamoille. Leland & Gray (8-2) is seeking its first title since 1991 and has outscored opponents 33-3 in the last six matches. In spite of the recent success, the Rebels could easily face Northfield-Williamstown in the first round of the playoffs. And the winner would likely hit the road for the quarterfinals.

In D-IV, Mount St. Joseph (1-8) is fresh off a 1-0 loss against Proctor. The teams are currently lined up to face off in the first round of the post-season, and the Phantoms could also face an underrated Long Trail side (1-8). Twin Valley (3-6-1), Sharon (3-6) and Twinfield (3-4) are also potential spoilers.

1. CVU (10-0) Jose Pecor and Catherine Gilwee each tallied one goal and one assist during a 2-0 victory over Colchester. Goalie Maryn Askew and the Redhawks defense boast eight shutouts and have allowed two goals all season. CVU will travel to play Burlington and South Burlington this week.

2. Essex (7-1-2) A 3-1 victory over Burlington lifted Essex to the No. 2 spot in the D-I standings. The Hornets were outshot 18-5 against South Burlington but still earned a 1-1 draw, thanks to a goal by Aiden Bradshaw. Essex will host St. Johnsbury on Saturday.

3. Burlington (8-2) Helen Worden scored twice and the Seahorses fired off 16 shots on frame during a 2-0 victory over St. Johnsbury. BHS will face CVU and BFA-St. Albans this week.

4. South Burlington (5-3-2) The Wolves are as talented as any team in the state but they’re suddenly fighting for a home playoff game following a 1-1 tie with Essex. This week’s opponents are Mount Mansfield and CVU.

5. Colchester (5-4) The Lakers’ three-game losing skid likely cost them a potential home quarterfinal. But they were all close defeats and the opponents were Burlington, South Burlington and CVU. Colchester has Essex and Mount Mansfield on tap this week.

6. Burr and Burton (10-2) Grace Pinkus scored her 20th goal of the season in a 3-0 victory over Rutland. The Bulldogs finish up by visiting Rutland and hosting Mount Anthony.

7. Mount Mansfield (4-6) Willa Clark buried two goals in a 4-1 victory over BFA-St. Albans. The Cougars are ranked ninth in D-I and face a tough slate this week against South Burlington and Colchester.

8. Thetford (6-2-1) The Panthers have won four straight, averaging five goals per game during that streak. A 5-0 win over North Country and a 6-3 victory over Harwood indicate that Thetford is the team to beat in D-III. The Panthers will finish up against Lamoille, Stowe and Northfield-Williamstown.

9. Montpelier (7-0-3) The Solons have rattled off five straight shutouts and are eyeing their first unbeaten season in program history. Sienna Mills and Lily Gingold have scored some big goals for MHS, which plays Lyndon and Northfield-Williamstown this week.

10. U-32 (9-1) The Raiders earned a 2-0 victory over Lyndon despite playing without Caroline Kirby. The midfielder maestro returned the next game, scoring four times in a 6-0 victory over Northfield-Williamstown. U-32 has a difficult upcoming stretch against Peoples, Stowe North Country and Lamoille.

On the bubble: North Country (6-2-1), Mount Abraham (8-2), Vergennes (6-3-1), Fair Haven (7-2-1), Stratton (5-0), Harwood (7-3), Milton (4-5-1)

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