Aug. 26, 2010By Mal Boright Observer correspondent
With football practices in their second week and the first days of workouts well under way in soccer, field hockey and cross country, the autumn athletic season at Champlain Valley Union High has hundreds of athletes working hard for varsity and junior varsity slots when the campaigns begin early next month.
All sports have solid 2009 seasons on which to build, or, in the case of boys soccer, to try and replicate. Coach T. J. Mead’s Redhawks captured the Division 1 championship last year.
The girls soccer team and the football team made it to championship games in Divisions 1 and 2, respectively. The girls cross country team is always a state and even New England contender, with the boys not far behind.
The field hockey team is coming off two seasons in the Division 1 championship game, with the big trophy a wrap in 2008.
Head coach Kate McDonald said in a Monday telephone conversation that only four starters return from the 2009 team that went undefeated until the championship game, when Hartford High took its revenge; CVU had popped the Hurricanes in the 2008 title test.
McDonald said three of the seven graduated starters from last year are already into their college careers. They are Kelsey Jensen (Colgate), KK Logan (Connecticut College) and Emmaleigh Loyer (Bates).
“We graduated nine seniors,” McDonald said. “We have some new faces.”
Returning to CVU are just four starters: forward Louise Gibbs, defender Aubrey Deavitt, forward Molly Burke and defender Lauren King.
To help fill some slots will be several players from last season’s junior varsity squad, which rolled through its 2009 schedule with only one loss and a tie.
McDonald, who has 10 years at the field hockey helm, said she is working with 62 girls who will be divided into varsity and two jayvee teams, which is about the same number of hopefuls as in 2009.
The varsity will travel to Bristol and Mount Abraham Union Saturday for an event in which the Redhawks will compete in half-hour contests against some of the several teams participating.
A scrimmage at Essex High is on the docket for Aug. 31, with the season opener against Burlington High at the CVU field on Sept. 8.
Cross country coach Scott Bliss has been working with more than 90 boys and girls as the cross country teams run up and down hills to get ready for the rigors of the season.
If youth is served, the boys team will be first in line with more than 30 freshmen among the 60 candidates. On the girls side there are more than 30 candidates.
The Redhawks’ season opener is a home invitational at Keenan Farm at 10 a.m. on Sept. 4.
Mead is currently working with 40 hopefuls at the varsity level. He expects to pare the number down to 22 to 25 players by the time the season opens Sept. 7, when Route 116 neighbor Mount Abraham Union motors to the Hinesburg field.
In all, Mead expects up to 70 players on the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams.
Missing for at least much of the season will be Mike Clayton, last year’s top goal getter, who injured a knee in late winter and is undergoing treatment and rehabilitation.
“We had a pretty nasty conditioning test,” Mead said of the welcome to CVU soccer drill held on opening day Monday at 7 a.m.
The candidates, as is tradition, were to run a mile in six minutes, after a short rest, a half-mile in three minutes, another short rest and then a quarter-mile in 90 seconds and later a 200-yard dash in 45 seconds.
“It is really tough,” Mead said, adding that in general it went quite well.
“The legs being in good condition allows players to do what they want to do on the field,” the coach explained.
The defending champs have scrimmages set for 10 a.m. Saturday morning at home against Rice Memorial High and Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans.