Edd Merritt, Contributing Editor

Edd Merritt

Woops — Hoops
They’re playing basketball
We love that basketball
Yeah, now basketball is my favorite sport
I love the way they dribble up and down the court
I keep it so fresh on the microphone
I like no interruption when the game is on . . .

Oh, how does it hurt? Ninety-six games without a loss for CVU’s women’s basketball team. Charlotte stars who graduated last year like Laurel Jaunich and Sadie Otley had kept the streak going. They never lost a game in four years on the team. Game two of this year against Rice finally produced the ouch. The Green Knights hit the bull’s eye on the Redhawk jerseys.

Back in my sons’ days as soccer players for the then CVU Crusaders, Coach Peter Coffey ran “Soccer Central” with a tight fist and did not mind a loss early in the season just to let his crew know how it felt and to overcome it when it counted at tournament time. My older son learned the strategy the hard way, playing on an undefeated team that lost to Essex in the state semifinals in overtime. I remember well their inability to understand the word “loss.” It was not in the “Central” vocabulary. Worse yet was that the Essex game winner came off the foot of Mike Line who had moved from St. George where he and my son Chris were line mates for a number of years on Chittenden-South Burlington (CSB) youth hockey teams. Mike did not have an outgoing, exuberant personality, so when he cracked a smile at what he had accomplished on the soccer pitch, it was closer to a guffaw for those who knew him.

On the basketball court the kick doesn’t have the same impact. If you kick it, you lose it, and CVU must have kicked a couple against Rice. They led after two quarters by eight points, but fouls dropped them to the brink of disaster. It appeared that a “loss” was in order. A defensive struggle, no scorer on either side ran away with baskets. Leah Larivee’s three-pointer with just under 19 seconds left in the game sealed the 37-33 come-from-behind win for Rice. She and Lisa Sulejmani led the Rice scorers with just seven points each, equaling Shannon Loiseau’s output for CVU. The Redhawks’ Abby Thut paced all scorers with nine.

So how does this fit into CVU’s sports picture over the years, and what does sports mean in the scope of learning? Part of the anguish was that it happened against Rice and its parochial recruits. In my sons’ days, hockey was the Green Knights’ forte while CVU nearly discontinued the sport. Fortunately the assistant principal (who was a hockey nut) spearheaded saving it, meaning recruiting Scandinavian skaters as exchange students year after year (Thank you for that, Jan Bedard!). Some students who ordinarily would have played at CVU jockeyed to other schools in Chittenden County. Several headed to South Burlington to play for the Division 1 Rebels. Two others headed to Rice with one of them playing a year of college hockey at Notre Dame. Over the years, though, CVU became hockey conscious and has progressed to become one of the top teams in the state.

My younger son’s team recruited heavily for a supposed CSB lineup. However, its success inspired a western migration to the Gut at the dawn’s early light from Waterbury, Hyde Park and Waitsfield. I think they slept in their skates. The best player’s family moved around New England so he could live near hockey schools.

Both my sons gave varsity sports a brief try in college but, fortunately, decided there were other things they wanted to gain from undergraduate life that didn’t revolve around the rink or the lacrosse pitch. My older son played on a pretty good club hockey team. He also spent a year on the college’s varsity lacrosse team that each spring traveled to the West Coast to play the likes of Stanford and UCLA. To this day, his high school LAX coach remembers the call Chris and his friend (also a CVU grad) made to him before stepping on the plane for Los Angeles. (Oh, by the way, mighty Bates beat lowly Stanford.)

My younger son decided that the ultimate in Frisbee was his cup of tea. The team wore diapers to toss the disk. Call them “sports shorts” if you will. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to improve their game, but they were the hit of Saratoga. Even the horses stopped prancing to look.

Both have since used their learning to land solid jobs. I doubt that either would have been an athletic professional, but how many are? (Trump may claim a certain swing—from the tee to the tower—but, despite owning 17 courses, he would not have much of a chance against Tiger Woods.)

So Ute, I recognize, and as a fellow educator appreciate, the value in the learning you inspire in your athletes. Take your basketball knowledge and excellent coaching skills and put them to work for the remainder of the Redhawk season. We will look forward to seeing you in the Pat come year’s end. You are a great teacher and coach (basketball rather than hockey notwithstanding as your game of honor).