Previewing all 8 Vermont high school soccer championship games

After a shortened, unique season due to COVID-19, we’ve made it to another Championship Saturday. Phew!

To set the stage, here’s our annual preview of each of the eight soccer championship games.

Enjoy.

Division I girls soccer

Site, time: Burlington High School, 10 a.m.

Teams: No. 1 Champlain Valley (10-0) vs. No. 3 South Burlington (7-3)

► The matchup: There’s more than one way to reach the championship game and the two D-I finalists modeled that to a T. The three-time defending champion Redhawks posted the most lopsided girls soccer semifinal in state history while the Wolves resorted to a double-overtime winner to solve a scoreless deadlock with Colchester. … CVU’s 9-0 semifinal rout against Rutland was all but over at halftime, a point the Redhawks emphasized shortly after the break when they went ahead 6-0 en route to their 61st win in a row. Their impressive campaign to date has seen them allow a little more than a shot on goal each game and just one goal against. Senior striker Josie Pecor has 20 goals and four assists to lead their potent attack, while classmates Olivia Zubarik (5 goals, 12 assists) and Catherine Gilwee (8 goals, 9 assists) are just as adept supporting or scoring. … South Burlington is the only team to score on the Redhawks this year and that was a month ago, with 10 seconds left in their first meeting. Since then, the Wolves have both rounded into form and also suffered a 4-0 setback to the Redhawks. They will need the most from their balanced, speedy, technical lineup to try to deny CVU its four-peat and capture their school’s first title since 2010.

More:Kelley’s 2OT strike sends South Burlington to D-I girls soccer final

Division II girls soccer

U-32's Caroline Kirby, center, leaps through two defenders to chase a loose ball during a high school girls soccer game in East Montpelier on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

Site, time: South Burlington High School, 1 p.m.

Teams: No. 3 U-32 (10-1) vs. No. 5 Rice (9-3-1) 

► The matchup: The reigning champs get to defend their crown against a program still searching for its first. … In four trips to the D-II final, this is the first time U-32 won’t face Milton. Is it finally the Raiders’ time? That could well depend on how much trouble their leading duo of Caroline Kirby and Sasha Kennedy can cause for the Rice defense. Both scored in the first half of a 2-0 semifinal win over No. 2 Harwood as Evie Moore denied the high-scoring Highlanders with her eighth shutout. … Winners a year ago, the Green Knights return to the final for the fourth season in a row since their move from D-I to D-II. They used a fourth-minute tally from Maris Lynn to upset top-seeded Fair Haven in the semis. Rice is also no stranger to making a title run from an unfavorable seed — they won last fall as the 9-seed. Goalie Khadija Hussein, who backstopped that effort, has allowed more than a goal only twice this year, both times against D-I opposition.

Division III girls soccer

Site, time: Maxfield Sports Complex (Hartford), 1 p.m.

Teams: No. 4 Vergennes (7-2-3) vs. No. 10 Stowe (5-6)

► The matchup: It’s been 21 years since these two pirate-mascoted schools clashed in the postseason for the first (and only) time — but now the Commodores and Raiders do so with a trophy at stake. They’ve gotten to this point with much different outside expectations, too. … After two turns as the underdog, Vergennes returns to the D-III final for the third year in a row as the favorite. To do so, the Commodores resorted to narrow wins over Peoples and Green Mountain, the latter in overtime, before bouncing unbeaten Enosburg, the top seed, 2-0 in the semis. They rely on sturdy defensive work and goalie Kate Gosliga to support an attack, paced by Sydney Weber (7 goals) averaging less than two goals a game. … This year’s Cinderella, Stowe, is the lowest seed to reach a D-III final since Vergennes did it as a 10-seed in 1999. The Raiders have done so averaging less than a goal a game yet have the unique distinction of winning every game in which they’ve scored. That includes Izzy Mitchell goals to upset Northfield/Williamstown 1-0 and defending champion Thetford 2-1, then a Lucia Lovell marker to bounce Windsor 1-0. … Stowe’s last state title was a repeat in 2016. Vergennes hasn’t won since 2006.

Division IV girls soccer

Site, time: Applejack Field (Manchester), 1 p.m.

Teams: No. 1 Proctor (12-0) vs. No. 6 Hazen (6-5)

► The matchup: One finalist is in the title game for the 10th straight year. The other has made it to the season’s last day for the first time in 33 years. … Unbeaten Proctor blanked Rivendell 3-0 in a semifinal rematch of the 2019 title game that it won 6-0. The Phantoms have dominated at both ends of the field. They own nine shutouts and have yielded only three goals. And they’ve piled up 77 goals — an average of 6.4 per game — with star striker Maggie McKearin accounting for 33 of them. … Proctor’s repeat bid must overcome the Wildcats, who opened the season with a five-game losing streak only to rattle off six wins in a row. Netminder Alleigh Gabaree, who topped 24 shots and converted a PK in their semifinal shootout against Hazen, should expect to live in the spotlight again on Saturday against the Phantoms’ high-powered attack. … Hazen has never won a championship while Proctor is seeking its seventh of the decade.

Division I boys soccer

Site, time: Burlington High School, 1 p.m.

Teams: No. 3 Essex (9-1) vs. No. 5 Burlington (9-2-2)

► The matchup: A rematch of the 2016 championship, Burlington took the long road to reach its eighth title game while Essex stayed close to home to advance to its 21st. The one common denominator? Neither side has yet to allow a goal in the playoffs. … After a home playdown win, the Seahorses hit the road to beat Burr and Burton (3-0), then the undefeated top seed St. Johnsbury (2-0). Unbeaten in seven straight games, BHS has turned to field player Harrison Diebold to assume goalkeeping duties and relied on Jake Manley’s knack for big-time goals. The senior has four of his team-leading 10 goals in the playoffs, including Thursday’s opening strike at St. Johnsbury. Sam Hogg, one of the state’s top defenders, is next with four tallies, and Nash Barlow, Manoj Karki and Karl Daly have each scored three times to give the Seahorses several playmakers capable of finding the back of the net. … Essex’s lone loss in 2020 was to BHS, a 3-2 overtime setback on Oct. 12, the only contest the Hornets yielded more than one goal. Andrew Seavers (5 shutouts, 0.7 goals-against average) anchors Essex’s defense with Kevin Lyon, part of a back line that held CVU scoreless in Wednesday’s OT semifinal victory. Stefan DiGangi (12 goals, 6 assists) had scored in every game until the semis, but doesn’t need much space to create chances. Elvis Salkic (4 goals, 4 assists) and Patrick Herrin (5 goals, 2 assists) are additional weapons on the wings and Tyler Santaniello’s (4 assists) distribution and midfield control are vital to the Hornets’ plans.

More:Essex buries CVU with overtime free kick to reach D-I boys soccer title game

Division II boys soccer

Site, time: South Burlington High School, 10 a.m.

Teams: No. 1 Milton (10-0) vs. No. 6 Montpelier (8-3)

► The matchup: Montpelier is searching for its first state crown since 1996. For Milton, the title drought is even longer at 29 years. … The top-seeded Yellowjackets, laser-focused since last year’s semifinal defeat, were technical, efficient and balanced in securing the program’s first perfect regular season (they went 12-0-2 in 2005). Backstopped by goalie Braeden Caragher, Milton outscored foes 40-0 in seven home games in 2020. A dozen players have at least one goal, headlined by Zack Logan (8 goals, 4 assists), Kyle Brown (8 goals, 3 assists), Kyler Kelley (7 goals, 5 assists), Caden Button (7 goals, 2 assists) and Cooper Goodrich (4 goals, 7 assists). … The Solons didn’t win more than two in a row until the playoffs. Now a three-game winning streak has them in their first title game since 2012. Montpelier’s tourney run includes knocking off Harwood in a wild penalty shootout and then snuffing out No. 15 Lake Region’s Cinderella run with a 3-0 result in the semifinals on a neutral field at Burlington. Quinn Mills (4 goals, 3 assists), Ronnie Riby-Williams (4 goals, 2 assists), Brooks Duprey (3 goals, 1 assist) and Ben Collier (2 goals, 5 assists) are Montpelier’s leading scorers.

Division III boys soccer

Site, time: Maxfield Sports Complex (Hartford), 10 a.m.

Teams: No. 3 Green Mountain (13-2) vs. No. 4 Peoples (8-3)

► The matchup: It took four one-goal victories, but Green Mountain pulled out a memorable 2019 championship, the program’s first ever. The 2020 playoff run? Sheer dominance for the Chieftains, who have outscored opponents 13-2 in three games. A team loaded with experience and one that puts an emphasis on possession, prolific scorer Everett Mosher has four of GM’s playoff tallies, while Ben Munukka put away two strikes in the quarterfinals against Winooski in a rematch of last year’s OT semifinal contest. … After losing three of four games in the meat of its Capital Division schedule, Peoples has ripped off five straight triumphs, and hasn’t conceded a goal in 320-plus minutes. Peoples reached its first final in three years after defender Landon Dubie notched his third game-winner of the season, a direct kick strike with 11 seconds to go to shock No. 1 Vergennes 1-0. Charlie Veit (8 goals, 2 assists), Norris Duff (5 goals, 6 assists), Oliver Nigro (6 goals, 4 assists) and Gabe Carlson (6 goals) pace PA’s offense. … The Wolves last won a title in 2011. 

Division IV boys soccer

Site, time: Applejack Field (Manchester), 10 a.m.

Teams: No. 1 Twin Valley (9-1) vs. No. 3 Proctor (10-2-1)

► The matchup: With CVU’s exit in the semifinals, Proctor has a chance to stand alone agin with the most boys soccer championships in state history. However, for the Phantoms to get to title No. 20, they must unseat the current title-holders of D-IV. … The Twin Valley Wildcats march into a third straight Championship Saturday riding an eight-game winning streak and owning a 57-11 goal differential in their title-defense. But Twin Valley needed late heroics with a pair of goals in the final 3:06 to stun White River Valley for a 2-1 semifinal win. Colin McHale (18 goals, 3 assists), Izaak Park (7 goals, 5 assists), Finn Fisher (8 goals, 9 assists), Aaron Soskin (6 goals, 7 assists) and Aidin Joyce (8 goals, 2 assists) pace TV’s plentiful attack. … Conner McKearin led Proctor in scoring during the regular season and he has upped that total come tournament time, tallying 5 of his team’s 8 goals in a trio of playoff wins. … Proctor and Twin Valley met in back-to-back finals in 2012 and 2013, each side winning once.

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Contact Alex Abrami at aabrami@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @aabrami5. Contact Austin Danforth at edanforth@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @eadanforth.