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Woodstock girls soccer winning despite injuries, roster turnover

  • Woodstock center back Hannah Watson (1) fights for the ball with Brattleboro defender Morgan Houghton (22) during a game at Woodstock Union High School in Woodstock, Vt., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Brattleboro won, 2-0. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley news / report for america photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Woodstock players cheer before returning to the field after a halftime pep talk during a game against Brattleboro Union High School at Woodstock Union High School in Woodstock, Vt., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Brattleboro won, 2-0. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Woodstock striker Fiona Piconi (3) fights for the ball against Brattleboro defenders Rose Stone (14) and Augustina McGillion (15) during a game at Woodstock Union High School in Woodstock, Vt., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Brattleboro won, 2-0. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

  • Woodstock midfielder Kassidy Haley (11) stops the ball from going out of bounds during a game against Brattleboro Union High School at Woodstock Union High School in Woodstock, Vt., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Brattleboro won, 2-0. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/4/2022 9:21:36 PM
Modified: 10/4/2022 9:21:41 PM

WOODSTOCK — If the only adversity the Woodstock High girls soccer team had to face this fall was replacing nearly its entire starting lineup, that would have been plenty.

But the injury bug has reared its ugly head time and time again for the Wasps, including a broken finger for the starting goalkeeper and two other players tearing their ACLs.

“It was difficult for a ton of freshmen and sophomores who haven’t gotten the chance to play on varsity to have to step up and be starters right off the bat,” junior defender Sophia Nisimblat said. “Usually you watch for a season or get your chances when you’re up by a lot. It was difficult for our team to adjust to a whole new playing style and a whole different (roster).”

Last year’s senior class, a dozen members strong, rebounded from a pair of losing seasons to lead Woodstock to a 14-3-1 record and its first state final since 2007. Hannah Reed was an offensive force, scoring 23 goals in 18 games, and goalkeeper Emma Tarleton anchored the defense.

The Wasps, the No. 2 seed in the VPA Division II playoffs, had some good fortune with the matchups — instead of seventh-seeded Missisquoi Valley in the quarterfinals, Woodstock faced No. 10 Lamoille, winning, 5-0. The Wasps’ semifinals opponent was neither third-seeded Fair Haven nor sixth-seeded Stratton Mountain, but rather No. 11 Mount Abraham, which Woodstock defeated, 3-1.

The magic ran out in the championship game against No. 4 Rice, which had knocked off top-seeded Harwood in the other semifinal and then won the title over the Wasps, 3-0. It was hard for that loss not to feel like the end of an era.

But even with a much younger group and a bevy of injuries, Woodstock — which moved down to Division III this year — has hung around, sitting at 5-3-0 even after a two-game skid.

“We knew what we had. We had eight returning players,” said coach Greg LaBella, in his 22nd season on the Wasps’ bench. “We were well-set-up in the beginning of the season, and then we had injuries, so now we’re cultivating players day by day.”

Woodstock groomed sophomore Jane Stout as the starting goalkeeper in the preseason, but she broke her finger in the Wasps’ final exhibition game. Senior Violet Tuckerman stepped up to assume the role as Stout returned to playing defense.

Senior midfielder River Miles, a co-captain, and sophomore defender Lilly Macri are both out for the season with ACL tears, and Nisimblat recently returned from a torn quad. In Monday’s 2-0 home loss to Brattleboro, a team the Wasps defeated on the road earlier in the season, Woodstock was also without senior midfielder Isabel Konijnenberg, who came in leading the team with nine goals and eight assists in seven games.

In the season opener against Otter Valley, Konijnenberg accounted for all nine Woodstock tallies in a blowout win with three goals and six assists. But she missed Monday’s game to attend a scholarship dinner at the University of Vermont, and the Wasps’ offense sorely missed her as they were shut out for the first time this year.

“Having more subs, having more people to rely on, is going to be good for us,” junior midfielder Leah Kuhnert said.

“We have become better at rolling with the punches, and that’s something our team has always been pretty proud of.”

With Konijnenberg out, Woodstock ran its offense through junior striker Chloe Masillo, who had scored in six of the Wasps’ first seven games. But the Colonels’ defense was marking her from the opening kickoff to the final horn, and Masillo was noticeably limping late in the game.

Woodstock’s first two losses came at the hands of Fair Haven, which also dropped from Division II and figures to be the D-III title favorite this year. But if the Wasps stay healthy the rest of the way, they have to like their chances against just about everyone else. And with so many underclassmen getting varsity experience, they are already excited for what next season could bring.

“The first year on varsity is not the best, but because everyone has already had that experience, we’ll be able to work even better together as a team,” Kuhnert said. “It’s not as if all the starters are leaving again like they did last year. I’m really hopeful.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.


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