Nine games into the high school girls soccer season, there’s still one large puzzle left to solve.
What does it take to score on Champlain Valley?
The two-time defending-champion Redhawks stand at a flawless 9-0 with 39 goals scored — an average of more than four per game befitting their skillful, possession-heavy approach — and zero allowed.
None. Nada. Nil.
“It wasn’t something that we came into the season wanting to do. It’s kind of a dream to do that,” said Maddie Turnau, the Redhawks’ goalkeeper. “But we just came into the season looking to play the best we could.”
The current penchant for clean sheets has its roots in last year’s state title game against Essex.
Since giving up a goal 25 seconds into that game — the Redhawks eventually won 2-1 in overtime — they have posted 812 minutes, 46 seconds of shutout soccer.
“We go into every game (and) one of our goals is, let’s not to concede anything,” first-year coach Stan Williams said. “But it’s soccer and anything can happen.”
So how have the perennial contenders done it, not even succumbing to an unlucky bounce?
For starters, defending isn’t confined to Champlain Valley’s half of the field.
“The forwards and outside mids have really committed to pressuring and understanding that defense starts up in the offensive third,” Williams said. “We’ve tried to stress layers of defense. If they have to get through five layers of defense, they’re going to earn their goal.”
The closest contest yet was against Burlington in the second game of the season. CVU led by a goal until Paige DuBrul doubled the lead with just over a minute to go for a 2-0 win.
The last two victories have been the most lopsided yet, 7-0 and 8-0, respectively.
“It really starts with our offense; they put so much pressure up top that we honestly haven’t gotten too many opportunities,” center back Kaelyn Kohlasch said. “Thank God Maddie’s been there when they have, though.”
Turnau has done her part.
The junior has logged all 720 minutes in net this year and played a memorable role getting the shutout streak off the ground with back-to-back diving saves in the first half against Mount Abraham in the season-opener, Williams said.
Kohlasch has anchored the defense from her position in the heart of the back line. Megan Gannon and Ellie Blake have provided speed at the outer back positions and DuBrul, a midfielder, presents a wall of her own in front of the defensive corps.
A wealth of technical ability makes it possible to hoard possession at times.
Depth and versatility have also allowed the Redhawks to stay fresh from start to finish, Williams said.
One example: Mackenzie Kingston, CVU’s second-leading scorer, played five different positions against South Burlington, starting at striker and filtering to the back line due to injuries.
“If we have the ball, it’s hard to give up a goal. Possession is the best defense,” Williams said. “And then when we lose it, they’ve really bought into turning and winning it back immediately.”
Today’s game on the road at North Country is the Redhawks’ next chance to show if they’re not just as good as ever, but better.
“Our goal in the beginning of the year was very simple,” Williams said. “We talk about talent setting our floor and hard work sets our ceiling and let’s see how high we can set our ceiling this year.”
Through nine games, anyway, no one has come close to that ceiling.