The Vermont girls soccer season can sometimes feel like a race for second place.

CVU, Milton and Thetford are all multi-time defending champs who are poised to extend their reigns. But the competition has tightened in 2019 and none of those three powerhouses can expect to run away with the title.

In Division I, Colchester and Burlington are top candidates to break up the Redhawks’ run. CVU has won 18 championships, claiming eight titles in the last nine years. The D-II Yellowjackets will deal with a host of challengers, including U-32, Harwood, Montpelier, Mount Abraham and Rice. Milton has won 16 championships, including the last four. The Panthers are two-time defending champs in D-III, but their path to a three-peat could easily be blocked by Stowe, Peoples or Vergennes.

As teams enter the third week of the season, here are the Rutland Herald / Times Argus power rankings:

1. CVU (1-0) The Redhawks extended their winning streak to 35 games when Olivia Zubarik set up Edie Wright in the 82nd minute for a 1-0 victory over Colchester. Coach Stan Williams returns eight starters, including top scorers Josie Pecor (13 goals), Zubarik (five goals, 15 assists) and Catherine Gilwee (seven goals, seven assists). Bus legs could be a factor Saturday when the Redhawks travel over 100 miles south to play Mount Anthony.

2. Colchester (2-1) Losing to CVU in overtime was not the result Colchester wanted, but it proves that the Redhawks are vulnerable. The Lakers have been eliminated by CVU five times in the past decade and would love to flip the script this fall. Maddie Chagnon (two goals) was one of five Colchester scorers during a 7-2 victory over Rutland. Chagnon, Paxton Brigante, Ellie Benoure and Jessica LaQuerre scored in a 4-0 win over South Burlington. Brooke Booska and goalie Olivia Moore lead Colchester’s defense.

3. Burlington (3-0) Sage Smith has scored in every match for the Seahorses, who are attempting to end a decade-long title drought. Smith and Payton Karson tallied two goals apiece in a 6-0 victory over Rice, and Smith scored twice again in a 6-2 win over Rutland. Smith delivered the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Mount Mansfield and goalie Klara Martone earned the clean sheet.

4. Essex (2-0) The Hornets are one of the biggest turnaround stories of the fall after going a combined 2-26-1 during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Coach Kevin Barber returns leading scorer Souma Mitra, who has deposited three goals in two matches. Gabrielle Knight, Anna Sabourin, Maya Desautels and Mitra scored in a 4-3 overtime victory over Mount Anthony, helping their team rally from a two-goal deficit. Mitra (two goals) and Rachel Botala (four saves) sparked a 2-0 victory over Rutland.

5. Burr and Burton (4-0) Two hat tricks by Grace Pinkus confirm that BBA is one of the most dangerous offensive sides in the state. Pinkus scored three goals in a 4-1 victory over St. Johnsbury before tallying both goals in a 2-0 win over Monument. She recorded another hat trick in the opener of the Lady Patriot Classic, sparking a 6-1 win over Brattleboro. Pinkus scored twice in the title game, fueling a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Mount Anthony.

6. Mt. Mansfield (1-1) The Cougars haven’t gone all the way since 2003, but they have lots of momentum from last year’s 13-3 squad. Sadie Gilbert-Barker and Abbey Foote scored in a 2-0 win over BFA-St. Albans to kick off the season. Goalie Anna Betz made seven saves to keep things close during a 1-0 loss to Burlington. The Cougars return 13 players, with Lauren Flewelling, Maura Duval, Molly Macdonald and Taylor Bevins guiding the defense.

7. Harwood (3-0) Opposing teams are learning quickly that Tanum Nelson is the real deal. The sophomore scoring sensation opened the season with 10 goals in the first three matches, following up a 21-goal freshman campaign. The Highlanders beat GMVS, 2-0, before earning a 6-0 victory over Northfield-Williamstown and a 7-2 win over Spaulding.

8. South Burlington (1-1) The Wolves have been ousted by CVU the past four years, suffering a 2-0 semifinal loss in 2018. South Burlington kicked off the season with a 2-0 victory over Thetford. Defender Grace Johnson and midfielder Maddie Liebegott will play crucial roles for the Wolves, who suffered a 2-0 loss against Colchester last week.

9. U-32 (2-0) Caroline Kirby notched five goals and one assist in the first matches, triggering a 3-1 victory over Rice and a 3-2 overtime win over Mount Abraham. The junior midfielder missed most of last season due to an injury but has clearly returned to full strength. The Raiders’ upcoming Capital League schedule will be tough against elite opponents like Thetford, Montpelier, Peoples and Harwood.

10. Milton (1-1) The Yellowjackets are in the unique position of having to rely on defense following the departure of Tatum Shappy and Emma Wennar, who combined for 53 goals last year. Milton opened with a 1-0 loss against U-32 before bouncing back with a 1-0 victory over North Country.

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