BRANDON ââ School resumes at Otter Valley Union High School, as does fall sports. At OV, that includes boys ‘and girls’ soccer, field hockey, football, cross country running and golf.
Coaches and athletes have set goals as they move through the season.
Here’s a quick look at the upcoming season for OV athletes.
Field hockey won its first game this season – 6-0 against Brattleboro in Brandon on September 4, with Lily Morgan in the goal for her second year of start.
The Otters highlighted what should be a balanced offense this fall: Riley Keith and Brittney Jackson have scored two goals apiece, and Alice Keith and Mackenzie McKay have each scored once.
“It was a very good game for us,” said coach Jodie Keith. “The defense saw little play on their side of the field, but Marissa Connors was the anchor of the defense when the game was down in their territory.”
The Otters followed with a 3-2 road victory over Division II rival Woodstock.
Jackson (assisted by McKay), Alice Keith (assisted by Ryleigh LaPorte and scored from a penalty) and LaPorte unassisted, had the goals on the board, and Morgan made seven saves.
Coach Keith was happy with the team’s effort again. âIt was a very good game for everyone. The offense worked hard to keep the ball in the circle, midfielders rushed to help the offense and quickly come back to defense when needed, and the defense got the ball out of the circle well.
Overall, Coach Keith said he was optimistic about a squad made up of the three Connors senior captains, Alice Keith and Riley Keith, who all played against Mount Abraham in the 2019 title game.
âWe have a very strong team this year with six returning seniors. Everyone is thrilled to be playing a full game schedule this season, âsaid Keith. “The team works very hard every day and wants to come back to the state championship this year.”
The football coaches and assistants are: Head Coach Kipp Denis; Defense Coordinator Keith Alexander; Offensive coordinator Jordan Tolar; special teams coach Ken Stanley; assistant Christian Polli; Manager Morgan Landesman, junior VO; and assistants Dylan Anderson (senior OV) and Mark Jackson (first year OV).
âWe are a young team and our goal is to make the playoffs,â said coach Denis. âWe missed a league game two years ago. “
The Otters started off on the right foot, claiming a 34-6 victory over Missisquoi in their first D-III game. OV QB Luca Polli threw for 129 yards and three touchdowns to help spark the victory. The Otters have shown offensive versatility; on the ground, Robert Hutchins went wild for 79 yards and Keevon Parks ran 11 times for 64 yards and another touchdown.
The Otters played well in 7v7 touch football during the COVID season a year ago, which consisted only of passing games and allowed Polli to develop his passing game, but coach Denis said the program is happy to return to 11-a-side football with full contact.
âWe’re just thankful to play tackle, not tag,â he said.
If the Otters continue to work hard, Denis said the program could hit his playoff goals.
âWe’ll get better with every game and go from there. It falls on them, that’s for sure, âhe said.
In his first year as the VO cross-country coach, Cameron Perta said he hopes to expand the program.
âI hope to lay a good foundation so that the team can not only be successful this season, but also be able to work hard in the offseason to improve throughout the year. Getting a few of our athletes to work out in the offseason is one of my main long-term goals. I think this could lead to very big progress in the years to come, âhe said.
Perta also wants to focus on “setting the right goals for each member of the team.” Goals that every athlete is able to build as they move forward. “
Three of the top five runners who led the Otter boys to fifth place in D-III last fall have graduated, but sophomores Dillon Ladd and Baker LaRock return after running for OV in the meet d ‘State in Thetford.
OV fielded a non-scoring four-runner team at Thetford in 2020. Two of those runners are back, and they are the captains of the cross-country team this fall, juniors Kelsey Adams and Zoe Elliott.
OV golf coach Greg Hughes and assistant coach Kristen Shaeffer start the season with returning main players Thomas Politano and Matthew Bryant.
âThese two have been helpful on the course and in training, helping less experienced golfers improve,â said Hughes. “Thomas is a dual sport athlete so Matt has been an integral part of our team in the preseason so far.”
Among the other athletes, the coach notes that experienced young golfer Lucas Politano is someone to watch.
On the women’s side, the squad has a returning player, Elena Politano, who went to the D-II state tournament last year with her sister Mia, who graduated last spring. Politano is also a bisport athlete this fall as a member of the women’s soccer team.
âOur hope this year is to reach the States as a team in the men’s and women’s divisions and have some home wins as well as continue to improve as golfers,â said Hughes.
The Otters got off to a good start, as the boys won at Rutland in their first game shooting a collective 187 with Thomas Politano’s 40s over nine holes in the lead.
Coach Tammi Blanchard will lead a relatively inexperienced squad of seven freshmen, five sophomores, six juniors and one senior.
âThe team may be young, but they have a lot of promise,â Blanchard said. âThe girls worked hard to hone their skills, get back in shape and most importantly, play as a team. “
The team captains are juniors Bryn Blanchard, Ella Brytowski, Alexis Hayes, Emily Peduto and Elena Politano.
The Otters took their pieces early on, with losses to strong teams Proctor and Black River – in Black River’s season opener – then to Woodstock in their home opener.
Coach Blanchard said Peduto, Hayes and Savannah Cook had some good times in the BRU tournament, in which Marley Richardson found the net for OV. Against Woodstock, Blanchard noted that goaltender Linnea Faulkner excelled, making 25 saves.
Coach Dick Williams said his team had equal experience – seven seniors and three juniors – and youth – nine sophomores and freshmen.
He called his seniors a “decent nucleus” to lean on, and said his first and second year students “have skills and some potential.”
The Otters had a respectable start, a big home win over West Rutland and then a 0-0 draw at Proctor in which they outscored their hosts, 17-8. Williams acknowledged that the road ahead would become more difficult,
âWe won our first game and we had to win the game against Proctor because we don’t have easier games on the calendar,â he said.
As for the key players, he listed senior athletic goalkeeper Hayden Bernhardt, playmaker for senior center midfielder Kieran Williams, senior center-back Fraser Pierpont, senior midfielder Evan Thomas, midfielder of sophomore Owen Thomas and senior striker Luca Cifone, who returns after taking on the pandemic year.
Coach Williams has said how well the midfielders click together and whether Cifone can continue to work well with Kieran Williams to create and complete chances will go a long way in determining how well the Otters fare this fall.
âNow we have to work on the finish,â said the coach.