Two sure things during the autumn months in the quaint town of Morrisville in Central Vermont: Amazing foliage and a title-contending girls soccer team.
Peoples Academy High School, winner of three of the last four Division III state titles, fields another powerhouse with sky-high expectations of collecting more hardware.
PA coach Jim Eisenhardt returns 14 players from a team that went 17-1 a year ago and posted a 3-1 victory over Oxbow in the championship game.
“This is a great group of girls,” Eisenhardt said about a team off to a 2-0 start. “They are very unselfish and do whatever is asked of them. This is a confident group.”
An example of the selflessness is Michelle Yandow, a goal-scoring midfielder last year who moved back to sweeper this year to compensate for the loss of standout defender Stacy Tomlinson to graduation.
Fundamentally sound in the midfield and defensive thirds of the pitch, the Wolves (2-0) also have plenty of firepower up front. Junior Katie Stames has five goals in two games after racking up 23 goals a year ago while speedster Hannah Merriam is coming off a season in which she generated 12 goals and 15 assists.
Peoples (2-0) benefits from playing in the tough Capital Division — filled with Division I and Division II opponents — and will be tested in its next two games against Harwood and Montpelier.
The PA program has amassed 58 wins and three championships the past four seasons.
“It’s a culture that we have here,” Eisenhardt said. “The junior and senior girls model that behavior to the younger players. I don’t have to say much. There’s a lot of leading by example.”
Essex’s Stuart on attack
Positioned on the defensive end of the field last year, Essex junior Charlotte Stuart moved to striker this fall — a prosperous switch for a Hornet team that’s bolted to a 3-0 start.
Stuart has struck for six goals in her new role, including a hat trick in the opener against BFA-St. Albans and the tally in a 1-0 win over Harwood on Tuesday.
“She kicks the ball as hard as anyone I’ve seen in a while,” Essex coach Bill O’Neil said. “She doesn’t take a big wind-up; she just pops the ball.”
O’Neil said Stuart’s emergence has also created opportunities for other players on an Essex team that’s stacked up 11 goals this season. By comparison, the Hornets only had 15 goals last year in compiling a 10-5-1 record.
Geier targets comeback
One of the state’s best players is sidelined with a torn ACL, but Lindsay Geier is taking steps toward re-joining South Burlington’s team this season.
Geier, a star midfielder who injured her knee in the spring, recently began jogging and hopes to be cleared for soccer in October. Last year, she was named a Burlington Free Press all-state first-team all-star.