The Champlain Valley Union girls basketball team kicked off its run for a sixth state title on Tuesday night, as the No. 2 seed topped No. 15 Burr and Burton 55-33 with ease.
CVU (18-2) next will face No. 7 BFA-St. Albans in the Division I quarterfinals on Friday at 7 p.m. at home in Hinesburg. BFA took down No. 10 Lyndon, 48-32, Tuesday night.
After round one now, the title defense gets much harder.
With experience at the forward position – senior captains Shannon Loiseau and Lindsey Albertelli are two of the four CVU players who saw action in last year’s post-season – the Redhawks will likely rely on that strength early in the playoffs. But the emergence this season of Harper Mead, Maryn Askew, Catherine Gilwee and Mekkena Boyd in the back court gives coach Ute Otley plenty of options as the playoffs progress.
CVU will likely need all of those options if the team plans on repeating its past performances. Top-seed St. Johnsbury is one of only two teams to beat the Redhawks this season – Rice also handed CVU a loss – and the Hilltoppers want revenge for last year’s loss in the D-I title game.
St. Johnsbury will counter CVU’s depth with last year’s Player of the Year Sadie Stetson. St. J. also may likely draw some confidence from its win over the defending CVU champs earlier this season.
But the Redhawks still have two games before they can focus on the Hilltoppers. A semifinal matchup with No. 3 North Country or No. 6 Mount Anthony is also on the horizon if CVU gets past BFA on Friday.
Girls hockey: High note into post-season
An up-and-down regular season ended on a high note for the Champlain Valley-Mount Mansfield co-op girls hockey team. The CougarHawks won two of their last three games to secure the No. 8 seed in the Division I girls hockey post-season.
Both of those recent wins came against Spaulding, which has earned the No. 9 seed and will face the CVU-MMU team in the first round of the playoffs.
The CougarHawks were scheduled to face the Crimson Tide on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. at Essex, after press time.
The wins against Spaulding should give CVU-MMU some confidence heading into the start of the post-season, the CougarHawks won their first matchup 10-3 and the second 8-1.
The wins also signaled the return of the team’s offense, which was strong to start the year, but faltered in the middle of the season. Powered by CVU forwards Lydia Maitland, Lauren Hanley and Jackie Ryan, the CVU-MMU offense will need to keep humming if the team wants to advance to the quarterfinals.
If the CougarHawks get past No. 9 Spaulding, the No. 8 seed will take on top-seed Essex in the quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon.
Boys hockey: Answering post-season questions
The first year as head coach for J.P. Benoit has seen its ups and downs. The Redhawks were going to try to turn that all around when the Division I boys hockey playoffs kicked off on Wednesday after press time.
The No. 7 seed CVU was to take on No. 10 U-32 in a play-down match-up at Cairns Arena in South Burlington.
The two teams faced off twice this season: The Raiders earned the upper hand in an early season win (3-0 on Dec. 16); and CVU wrapped up the regular season with a 4-2 victory over U-32 in the final game of the regular season.
The offense provides a question mark for the Redhawks: Jake Schaefer and Jennings Lobel provide the bulk of the scoring, so will someone else step up to fill their shoes if other teams attempt to shut them down?
Goal tending is another area where CVU has some questions. With three solid goalies on the roster, will the team rotate or will one goaltender earn himself the starting spot?
These questions will need to be answered if the Redhawks want to advance to the D-I quarterfinals for a match-up with No. 2 Essex on Saturday afternoon.