Playoff time is always an exciting time of year for high school athletes. When any regular season begins, most teams figure they will be pretty good this time around. By the time the post season swings into gear, game action and the team’s record either tell them that they are a contender or that it is likely to be one and done time. There are a couple of other exceptions: the team doesn’t qualify for the post-season despite what their play and record or the team believes they can pull an upset of one, two, or even more games. One thing every team does know is: you win today or you go home.
How many area teams do we think will capture the top prize in this fall of 2019? The high flyers this fall are the Bellows Falls girls’ cross country team. They head to Thetford Saturday, Oct. 26 for the Division III State Championship race with a reasonable chance of capturing the top prize. Their race is at 12 p.m. Bellows Falls finished second to a strong Division II Burr & Burton team in the Southern Vermont League Championship race last week. Top Terrier runner Abby Broadley, only a sophomore, ran away with the race, finishing one minute and 15 seconds ahead of all the competition.
The DIII title run is expected to come down to a toss up between Bellows Falls and Rice, and the depth of performance of the Bellows Falls runners are expected to decide the top spot. Supporting Broadley in the SVL race were sophomores Stephanie Ager, 4th; Victoria Bassette, 8th; and Ashley Bartlett, 12th; and juniors Abby Dearborn, 14th, and Molly Hodsden, 15th. Each of those runners could be a key to Saturday’s competition.
The Bellows Falls boys’ cross country team are not expected to challenge for the title, but they did place third in the SVL race behind powerful Woodstock and Rutland and will push to as high a position as is possible. Tim Salter-Roy, 8th, and Collin Robertson, 12th, were both in the top dozen in that race. The boys DIII title race is Saturday, Oct. 26 at 10:30 a.m.
Our area favorite to go the furthest in girls’ soccer has to be the Leland & Gray Rebels (12-2). However, there may be people in our coverage area cheering against them and rooting for the Green Mountain Chieftains (5-9) because the two teams match up in the opening round of playoffs. These two are Division III rivals and have had some intense battles over the past few years on the pitch. The two schools have met six times in post-season play with each school winning three games.
This fall, they met twice with the ladies from Townshend dominating the first meeting 8-0 before a much closer 3-1 victory for Leland & Gray the second time around. Home field advantage could be a big plus for the third-seeded team. Whoever wins this game plays Saturday, Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. against Stowe.
The Springfield girls’ soccer (10-3-1), competing in Division II, probably have the next best chance to go the furthest. They had a Wednesday, Oct. 23 3 p.m. home game with Lamoille (6-6-1), who is a tough team to judge. The Lancers play a northern schedule of mostly Division III schools, but they hold a couple of victories against teams at the top of that pack whom are considered DIII title threats.
A Cosmos’ victory would likely set up a trip to Fair Haven (10-2-2), whom they have played twice during the regular season with each team coming out victorious on their home turf. Springfield shut the Slaters out 1-0 at home after falling 2-0 at Fair Haven. The Fair Haven contest would be Saturday, Oct. 26 at 3 p.m.
I doubt Black River (5-8) is a title threat, but the fact the Lady Presidents could land a home game Tuesday, Oct. 22 as an eight seed versus Sharon, is a story in itself. A victory in this one would be one kind of footnote to say goodbye to a proud community soccer tradition. These young ladies, win or lose, are the last team to represent their tradition of soccer excellence. The competitive spirit they have showed without depth while playing through some untimely injuries leave the Ludlow residents smiling.
Bellows Falls (2-10-2) took their 15 seed up to Vergennes (8-4-1) for another Tuesday, Oct. 22 encounter.
On the boys’ side of the competition, Green Mountain (9-5) is the only strong team from the area. The Chieftains are seeded third and drew an Otter Valley (2-12) squad Tuesday, Oct. 22, who competes in a mainly DII schedule, so are likely better than their record.
A Chieftain victory allows another home game Friday, Oct. 25 at 3 p.m. versus the Randolph at Vergennes contest. The two other boys’ teams to compete both saw games Tuesday as Leland & Gray (4-9-1) and Bellows Falls (3-11) hit the road at Bellows Free Academy (7-7) and Hazen (11-3) respectively.
Bellows Falls (7-7) and Springfield (3-11) are the only two schools in our area who have field hockey teams. The Terriers compete in Division I and with a limited number of teams in Division I get a bye to the quarterfinals where they have a road game at South Burlington (9-5). The Rebels have dominated DI field hockey for years until the Terriers interrupted their fun last season. This will be a very difficult road encounter.
The Cosmos also play in a small division with teams seeded into the quarterfinals in Division III, and they will travel to Stowe (11-3) for a Saturday, Oct. 26 contest at 1 p.m.
Both Bellows Falls (6-2) and Springfield (5-3) host home playoff football games Friday evening, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. Bellows Falls will host a Lyndon team they defeated on the road earlier this season. Bob Lockerby’s team dominated the first half and was not challenged, but Lyndon was without a couple of key players in that game. Lockerby told me, “They are kind of a scary opponent, but if we take care of the ball and don’t give up big plays, we should be okay.”
Springfield hosts a Windsor team they defeated 12-6 on the road a few weeks back, and some people feel the Jackets have improved since then. Coach Todd Aiken said, “We need to have a good week of practice. We didn’t before the Poultney game, and we didn’t play well so we need to focus now because it’s a brand new season.”