Sometimes the beautiful game gets a bad name when opponents err on the side of caution and highly anticipated matches turn into Snooze Fests.

That’s clearly not the case this year in Vermont girls soccer.

The first two weeks of action were filled with old-fashioned shootouts as teams hit the ground running. Defending champs South Burlington, Rice, Stowe and Proctor all proved they have enough firepower to earn repeat titles, while a host of contenders are hungry to avenge last year’s playoff losses.

The early-season scoring was prolific as some individual stars wasted no time piling up the goals. In Chittenden County, CVU’s Chloe Pecor, South Burlington’s Rachel Kelley, Colchester’s Ava Moore and Burlington’s Brooks DeShaw were red-hot in the attacking third.

The offensive outbursts in Central Vermont have also been staggering. Montpelier’s dynamic duo of Sienna Mills and Grace Nostrant set a high bar during the first two matches, while Emma Korrow and Becca Dupere showcased their finishing skills for Paine Mountain. Stowe’s Sarah Hailey, Spaulding’s Sage MacAuley and U-32’s Maia Pasco have also been snipers inside the penalty area.

MSJ’s Lauren Costales, Proctor’s Isabel Greb and Fair Haven’s Lily Briggs are some of the best scorers in the Southern Vermont League with six goals apiece. Slater standout Maddy Perry is also a top scoring threat along with Springfield’s Lexi Tewksbury and Macie Stagner.

With a slew of high-stakes games on tap Saturday, here is the first list of the 2022 Rutland Herald/Times Argus girls soccer power rankings:

1. CVU (1-0) Some squads already have five matches under their belt, but Stan Wilson’s team had plenty of time to practice due to a two-week break between the first and second contest. Pecor (four goals), Ava Barron (two goals) and Zoe Klein (one goal, one assist) were sharp in their only outing thus far, guiding the Redhawks to a 7-1 win over Mount Anthony. Goalie Emma Allaire did not have to make a single save in the season-opening match. The Redhawks will host Burr & Burton at 10 a.m. Saturday.

2. Colchester (3-0) Nine returning starters will attempt to lead the Lakers to their first championship in 29 years. Moore has scored in every match to emerge as an early candidate for Metro Division Player of the Year. Brinlee Gilfillan also found the back of the net in a 2-0 victory over Rice, while McKenna Conrad-Pawlik and Natalie Abair recorded assists. Makenna Wirtz, Kelsey Pratt and Moore scored in a 3-0 victory over Rutland, with Isabelle Winton and Conrad-Pawlik notching assists. Conrad-Pawlik, Abair, Moore and Kyla Lumbra tallied goals in a 4-0 victory over Burr and Burton. Goalie Aurora Proulx and the Lakers will travel to play BFA-St. Albans on Tuesday.

3. South Burlington (3-0-1) The Wolves are two-time defending champs after beating CVU on penalty kicks during last year’s Division I final. Kelley erupted for three goals and one assist during a 5-2 win over Milton. Elsea Otsby (one assist) and Elise Smith also scored against the Yellowjackets and Diana Larrow and Oakley Machanic notched assists. Kelley cashed in on a Machanic assist and keeper Alisa McLean stopped four shots during a 1-0 win over Mount Abraham. The Wolves shut out Rice, 1-0, before settling for a 1-1 tie with the Green Knights on Wednesday. Ostby scored on a corner kick and McLean made three saves during the draw.

4. Burlington (2-0) DeShaw recorded a hat trick and Amelia Dion and Rosie Perkinson added single goals during a 5-0 win over Mount Abraham. The Seahorses scored five goals in 17 minutes during the second half against the Eagles, who only managed two shots against BHS keeper Vivian Halladay. DeShaw and Amelia Dion (one assist) scored in a 2-0 win over Rutland, with Halladay recording a three-save shutout. The Seahorses will travel to play St. Johnsbury on Tuesday.

5. Mount Mansfield (2-0) First-year coach Peter Albright will attempt to lead the Cougars to their first title appearance since 2004. Chloe DeJong scored and Izzy Shamp made seven saves in a 1-0 win over Rutland. Clara Idle and Emily Foote scored in 2-0 win over Harwood as Shamp easily recorded another shutout. Juniors Finley Barker and Maddison Doyle are also weapons for a Cougars side that will travel to play Spaulding at 10 a.m. Saturday.

6. Essex (1-1) It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for the Hornets, who are seeking their first crown in 15 years. Courtney Frank and Abby Smith scored in 2-0 win over Rice, with teammate Madi Johsnon registering seven saves. The Hornets created plenty of offensive chances vs. Rutland but walked away empty-handed during Wednesday’s 1-0 loss. Sophomore forward Sarah Hall will be champing at the bit for her first goal of the season when the Hornets host Rice for a rematch at 10 a.m. Saturday

7. Rice (0-3-1) Goalie Sunshine Clark has been on top of her game to help the Green Knights stay in contention during a grueling slate of early-season matches. Clark made 19 saves to keep things close during a 2-0 loss to Colchester. Rice also endured a 1-0 loss to South Burlington and a 2-0 loss to Essex. Aydney Adreon tallied the equalizer in the 67th minute and Clark made 12 saves during a 1-1 tie with South Burlington. Junior defensive standout Izzy Bloom is a big reason why Rice has a solid chance of advancing to the D-I championship for the sixth straight season.

8. Burr and Burton (3-1) Fullback Willa Bryant, scoring threat Emelia de Jounge and goalie Abigail Kopeck lead a Bulldogs squad that owns five titles. BBA captured its last crown in 2016 and hasn’t finished with a losing record in the regular season since 1995. This year’s campaign kicked off with a 2-1 win over St. Johnsbury, a 2-0 victory at Mount Anthony and a 4-0 win vs. Hoosac Valley. BBA’s high-powered offense finally met its match during a 4-0 loss to Colchester.

9. Rutland (1-3) Mattie Peters scored in a 1-0 win over Essex to help Rutland get back on track. Emilia Sabataso made seven saves vs. the Hornets, while Mackenzie McLaughlin and Brianna Greene led the way defensively. Bethany Solari is potent threat up top and Karsyn Bellomo is a quality playmaker in the midfield. Rutland started the season with a 1-0 loss to Mount Mansfield, a 3-0 defeat at Colchester and a 2-0 loss at Burlington. Saturday’s showdown with Middlebury will give Rutland a chance to creep back toward the .500 mark.

10. Montpelier (2-0) Returning all 19 players from last year’s 10-5-1 squad is an undeniable recipe for success. Mills (three goals) and Nostrant (two goals) led the way during a 5-1 win at Middlebury. Nostrant’s hat trick fueled a 4-1 win at Randolph. Montpelier hasn’t gone all the way in a decade and will return to action Saturday at Peoples Academy.

ON THE BUBBLEMilton (2-2), North Country (2-2), Spaulding (2-1), Paine Mountain (2-1), Stowe (3-1), BFA-Fairfax (3-0), Fair Haven (3-0), Woodstock (2-0)

DIVISION I TOP 5

1. CVU (1-0) 2. Colchester (3-0) 3. South Burlington (3-0-1) 4. Burlington (2-0) 5. Mount Mansfield (2-0).

DIVISION II TOP 5

1. Rice (0-3-1) 2. Montpelier (2-0) 3. Milton (2-2) 4. Spaulding (2-1) 5. North Country (2-2).

DIVISION III TOP 5

1. Stowe (2-1) 2. Paine Mountain (2-1) 3. Fair Haven (3-0) 4. Woodstock (2-0) 5. Peoples (1-1).

DIVISION IV TOP 5

1. Leland & Gray (5-0) 2. Blue Mountain (3-1) 3. Poultney (1-0) 4. MSJ (3-1) 5. Proctor (3-1).

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