Vermont’s spring sports season started March 19 this year, not that it mattered.
A series of late-winter and early-spring Nor’easters pounded the area, leaving feet of snow on the fields, courts and tracks. While that was great news for winter sports enthusiasts, it wasn’t so good for people wanting to catch some fly balls or make some long passes.
“There’s only so many things you can do inside,” said Natalie Soffen, Peoples Academy athletic director. “You’re always trying to find space, an empty parking lot or the outfield of a field, any grass you can find just to see a ball in the air.”
So, in a year when the tennis and lacrosse teams couldn’t even get outside to practice until more than a month into the season, local teams made some impressive runs.
Stowe’s boys tennis team had the strongest showing this year for the school, going an undefeated 9-0 in team play during the regular season — that’s five matches fewer than the team had scheduled at the beginning of the year.
The team made it all the way down to the last match, the last set, the last point, in a game that ultimately didn’t end on the right bounce for the Raiders. They lost 4-3 in the state finals to Essex, in an unorthodox last-set lob-fest.
The defending champion Stowe boys lacrosse team had a slow start to the season, but finished on an eight-game winning streak, and a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed. But they stumbled against an improbable U-32 squad in the quarterfinals, and had to sit out, which they did with class and dignity — Stowe was given the award for best sportsmanship during the season, something coach Mike Loughran likes almost as much as he likes winning.
Stowe’s girls tennis team was arguably better than its 5-6 record indicated, particularly its No. 1 singles player, Skyler Graves. The freshman came out roaring from the get-go this season, winning most of her matches and setting the foundation for a team to watch out for next year.
Stowe’s girls lacrosse team had a regular season record indicative of a team in a rebuilding phase and a new coach. The team finished the season 6-9 and exited in the first round of the playoffs.
Stowe athletes also peppered the combined Peoples Academy/Stowe baseball and track and field teams. The top two pitchers for the baseball team, Kristian Viljanen and Colton Cunningham, kept plenty of games tight, even if the bats weren’t connecting.
Elsewhere, a trio of other area teams went all the way to the end, although only one came out on top.
The Harwood Union boys lacrosse team won the Division 2 state championship, capping a perfect season with an emotional celebration. After four second-place finishes and several winning seasons, the entire community got that title, and did it in memory of five Mad River area teens who were killed in October 2016 by a wrong-way driver.
The Harwood girls tennis team went 14-0 on the regular season and made it all the way to the title match. It took another 14-0 team in Woodstock to spoil the top-ranked Lady Highlanders’ hopes, as Woodstock won 5-2 for its second straight Division 2 championship trophy.
Lamoille’s baseball team was also the runner-up in Division 2. The No. 1 Lancers beat up on Montpelier in the opening round, then rallied for comeback wins over Hartford and Fair Haven in the quarterfinals and semifinals before falling to sixth-ranked Lake Region, 1-0, in the D-2 title matchup.
Junior Lucy Kelley again turned in one of the top performances of the spring for the Wolves, winning the state championship in javelin for the third year in a row. Kelley’s first two state titles came in Division 3, but PA and Stowe forming a cooperative team this season pushed the squad up into D-2; Kelley collected her third crown with a throw of 104 feet, five inches.
Other top performers for the PA-Stowe team at the state meet included Mikell McKenzie, second in the 100 meters, and Gavin Schleupner, fourth in the same event. The squad’s relay teams also fared well with two third-place finishes; Ben Craig, Daniel Lyden, Sam Mathisen and Rashane Russell were third in the 4x400 relay, and Craig, Mathisen and Nathaniel Wells third in the 4x800 relay. Sofie Carlson was fifth in the 1,500 meters and Linden Osborne sixth, and Lily Metzler was fifth in high jump.
PA’s baseball and softball teams also made noise in the postseason. The third-ranked softball team came up one game short of the program’s first Division 3 title game appearance since 2012; the Wolves received an opening-round bye, beat No. 6 Thetford in the quarterfinals but fell on the road to eventual state champ Oxbow in the semifinals.
PA baseball, ranked fourth in D-3, throttled Twin Valley in the opening round, 10-0 but lost a tight, back-and-forth quarterfinal matchup to No. 5 Leland and Gray, 5-2.
Small in number but long on talent, Lamoille’s track and field team turned in some of the school’s top finishes of the spring. Junior Izzy Sullivan brought home the Division 2 state championship in the 300-meter hurdles, running a 49.62 to edge U-32’s Julia Oliver by four-tenths of a second. Sullivan also finished sixth in the 100-meter hurdles, and her teammate MegAnne Gilmore notched a pair of runner-up finishes at the state championship meet, finishing second in both the 1,500 meters and the 3,000 meters.
The Lamoille girls lacrosse team made its own deep postseason run, reaching the Division 2 semifinals for the first time in program history. The fourth-ranked Lancers opened the postseason with a win over Milton, then outlasted perennial contender No. 5 Chelsea in the quarterfinals to reach the semis, where they ultimately fell to undefeated and No. 1 Green Mountain Valley School.
Lamoille’s boys lacrosse and softball teams also qualified for the postseason. The softball team, ranked No. 15 in Division 2, went on the road in the opening round of the playoffs and gave No. 2 Fair Haven a scare but ultimately fell 6-1. The tenth-ranked boys lacrosse team went on the road in the opening round as well, falling to eventual D-2 runner-up No. 7 U-32 by a score of 11-4.