MVRHS fall sports preview
Photo by Ralph Stewart
The fall sports season at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School gets underway well before the official first day of school September 9. The boys soccer team was first out of the starting gate, playing Wednesday in North Eastham against Nauset. The Vineyard field hockey program, with a record 74 players on varsity, jayvee, and freshman teams, travels to Falmouth on September 5. The same afternoon, the MVRHS golfers, with Kat deBettencourt as the first female co-captain in the program's history, tee off against Eastern Athletic Conference arch-rival Bishop Feehan. The girls soccer team is first to debut in front of the home crowd with a match Friday at 3 pm at Dan McCarthy Field versus Cohasset. Saturday is a busy day at MVRHS. The junior varsity football team takes the field at 10 am against Bedford. At 11:30, the Vineyard cross-country teams host more than a dozen schools and 400 athletes in the annual Vineyard Invitational meet. Finally, at 1 pm, Bedford and Martha's Vineyard kick off the new varsity season at Dan McCarthy Field.
The Times now takes a closer look at the fall sports teams.
Coach Joe Schroeder has a wealth of experience back this season on both the girls and boys teams, plus several promising young runners. "We have a nice group of kids with high goals," he said.
Seven of the 11 girls on the roster returned from a team that raced well despite having a 1-3 2012 record in the tough Eastern Athletic Conference. Junior Julia Neville leads a veteran core of harriers, including seniors Willoe Maynard, Lily Neville, and Lucy Norris. "With Julia Neville back, we should be solid one through four or even five," coach Schroeder said. "It's a solid group, but there's no margin for error."
The boys roster boasts 23 runners, 13 of whom are back from last year. The Vineyarders were 3-1 in the EAC and 5-1 overall. The one loss was competitive to perennial league powerhouse Bishop Feehan. Jeremy Alley-Tarter, Galen Mayhew, Thorpe Karabees, and Chris Serpa all are four-year seniors, while George Sykes and Isaiah Maynard are back for a third season. Coach Schroeder said he expects his sophomores and freshmen runners to contribute as well, which should push the upperclassmen to excel. "We have a good mix," the coach said. "It's a good competitive atmosphere."
The Vineyarders were to have started the new season Tuesday at Carver but the meet was cancelled due to lightning. Martha's Vineyard hosts the annual Vineyard Invitational meet Saturday, with more than a dozen schools and over 400 athletes taking part. Bishop Feehan, Plymouth North, and Cherokee High of Marlton, New Jersey, are among the elite teams scheduled to compete. Other highlights on the schedule include a league clash September 11 in Taunton against Coyle Cassidy, EAC home meets against Somerset Berkley September 18 and Bishop Stang October 2; the prestigious Manchester (N.H.) Invitational, September 28; the Twilight Meet at the Barnstable Fairgrounds, October 19; and the EAC league meet on October 26.
Coach Lisa Knight begins her 27th year of coaching at the varsity and jayvee level with a deep, deep well from which to draw. The Vineyarders have a whopping 74 players, including more than 30 freshmen, resulting in varsity, jayvee, and freshman teams.
Fourteen players are back from the 2012 team that finished 9-5-5 after falling to Plymouth South in the MIAA Division 2 South tourney opener. Varsity captains Kat Dorr, Mary Ollen, Alex Clark, and Issy Smith should provide excellent leadership. Also back are seniors Sarah Alexander, Chantal Booker, Leah Fortes, Caroline Gazaille, Alice Keenan, Charlotte, McCarron, and Emma Yuen. Returning juniors are Aubrey Ashmun, Sydney Davies, and Olivia Ogden. The Vineyarders also have a number of promising players coming up from last year's jayvee squad. Junior Taylor Maciel and sophomore Elissa DeCosta will vie to tend the twine this season, replacing graduated standout Kathryn Antonsson.
Coach Knight will be aided by four former players on the coaching staff; assistants Beth O'Connor and Kaylea Moore, along with volunteers Phebe Bates and Nikki Alexander.
The Vineyarders start the season Thursday, September 5, on the other side of Vineyard Sound at Falmouth. Next comes a "playday" scrimmage Friday at Dennis-Yarmouth. The Purple varsity play their home opener September 14 at 12:30 pm against Ursuline Academy of Dedham. The jayvees are home to Bishop Stang at 4:30 pm September 17 and the freshmen host Dennis-Yarmouth on Tuesday at 3 pm.
"I'm excited, the players treat every practice like a game," coach Knight said. "I couldn't ask for better captains. The returning players all saw a lot of playing time, which is a good foundation to build on… If my hardest job is learning 74 names, then I am blessed."
The Vineyarders will bring new faces to a demanding schedule and a complicated new statewide rating system that determines postseason tournament teams as The Purple open the 2013 season this Saturday, Sept. 7, at 1 pm at Daniel G. McCarthy Field against Bedford High School.
"We'll be smaller but faster and more athletic," promised Coach Donald Herman who has seen virtually every team makeup possible in 30-plus years of coaching, the last 25 years as head coach on the Island. The Vineyarders are coming off a 7-4 season in 2012. "That's our strength: a good mix of young talent and some experience. I suppose lack of size would be a weakness, so we need to be quicker and use our athleticism," he said.
"We graduated a bunch of people," Mr. Herman said, noting that senior Joe Turney will be a featured running back. Other returning starters include Kyle Stobie and Tony Canha, veteran linemen Andrew Jacobs Walsh, Lochlund Chimes, Aaron Lowe, and sophomore Jacob Cardoza. Junior Mike Mussell Jr. will take over at quarterback from 2012 graduate Alec Tattersall. Mussell appeared in six games in 2012, completing all four passing attempts for 58 yards and a touchdown. Turney rushed for 254 yards on 53 carries with two touchdowns.
The returning group is generally a battle-tested bunch whose efforts led to an improbable comeback win over Nantucket in the waning minute of the fourth quarter last season to secure a ninth consecutive Island Cup.
Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket high schools battle in the final regular season game, which will be played after Thanksgiving on Saturday, November 30 in Nantucket, for possession of the silver Island Cup, a matchup that has generated national coverage for the teams over the past 35 years.
"We are not going to change our system. We are going with speed and athleticism within the system," Mr. Herman said. Captains for the 2013 edition haven't been named yet, and although captains will be selected, "we consider every senior to be a leader," Mr. Herman said.
Mr. Herman's focus is on winning the game at hand rather than on a new Kafka-esque rating system statewide to determine postseason teams. "It's complicated, but there are basically three ways now, instead of two ways, to qualify for the postseason," he said.
"The first seven games are important. Finish first or second in your league and you're in. The next three games are played against opponents selected for you (by a ratings committee). We don't know who our opponents are or where we play until a week before the game. Points are awarded for beating a team in a higher division, for example," he said.
The final, time-tested route to the postseason? "Play your way in by winning your games (regardless of opponent)," Mr. Herman said.
The Vineyard gridders kick off the season Saturday at 1 pm with a home game against the Bedford Buccaneers. The jayvee game is at 10 am.
The MVRHS golf team has a record-setting season before the first tee is put in the ground. Kat deBettencourt has been named the first female co-captain of the Island golf team and one of the few in coach Doug DeBettencourt's memory.
"It's a rare honor," coach DeBettencourt said last week. "I seem to remember that Bourne had a woman captain years and years ago. Kat earned the honor. She and Co-captain Matt Marchand, both three-year varsity starters, will alternate in the number one position this season." The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Assn. permits girls to compete on the boys team if their school, the case on the Island, does not have a women's golf team.
Coach DeBettencourt was cheered by the results of nearly two dozen students trying out for eight varsity and 10 sub-varsity spots as the Island team rebuilds after graduating seven of ten seniors following a 12-8 season that took second place in the EAC and qualified for the state tournament.
"The freshman class is extraordinary," the coach said. "I expect three or four freshman to play varsity golf this year. Before tryouts I was holding my breath and now I am somewhat optimistic about our team this year." He added that intra-squad competition allows all golfers to compete for a varsity spot.
That would be good news since senior Ben Lukowitz and sophomore Kaitlyn Marchand are the only varsity returnees as seven of 10 varsity golfers graduated in 2012.
The golf team tees off the 2013 season on the road at 3:30 pm September 5 against Bishop Feehan at Heather Hill Country Club in Plainville. The Vineyarders host Bishop Stang Tuesday at Farm Neck at 3 pm.
The Vineyarders will look to improve on last season's 4-12-1 record. Coach Richard Bennett, starting his third season as head coach, has a good mixture of experience and youth on the roster. Fourteen players return from 2012. The Vineyard defense, which allowed 20 fewer goals against than in 2011, is intact from last season and should be steady. Senior captain Isabelle Wadleigh will anchor the backline, along with junior Leila Gardner. With experienced midfielders and younger players used to playing in competitive matches, the Vineyarders should also be more versatile offensively. Seniors Jessica and Mariah Campbell, along with junior Emily deBettencourt will be key in midfield. Coach Bennett has a strong freshman class, which could yield several starters. Frosh Cana Courtney will start in goal.
The coach credited the Island's strong youth program with developing the younger players. "From the start of the preseason, we have a great group of kids," he said. "Their fitness level and skill level are the best I've seen in the three years. A lot can be attributed to Martha's Vineyard Youth Soccer, which makes a great difference in their development."
As it was last year, a chief concern will be goal scoring. The Vineyarders struggled to find the onion bag in 2012 and will have to get more production to be successful, especially in the unforgiving Eastern Athletic Conference.
The Vineyarders kick off the new season Friday at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs against Cohasset, a Division I team. The match begins at 3 pm. The first EAC match is September 17 at Somerset Berkley.
Head Coach Damon Burke believes the 2013 boys soccer team has found a missing ingredient from the 2012 squad that reached the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional quarterfinals, following a 7-5-5 season.
"We play a possession-style game but we had real trouble scoring," he said. "For example, we played a 0-0 tie in one game in which we possessed the ball for 26 or 27 straight minutes (of an 80-minute match). That's not going to be a problem this year" he predicted.
His view is shaped by the overall quality of the team, which is heavy with experienced juniors, a cadre of experienced goalkeepers and the addition of some fresh offense.
Team captains under Mr. Burke and assistant coach John Walsh are seniors Sam Entner, Ben Wadleigh, Kane Araujo, and junior Lee Faraca. Wadleigh continues a family tradition: his older brother, Jack, was a team captain in prior years. Matey Mateez is the sub-varsity coach.
"Graduation crushed us, no question," Mr. Burke said. "However, we have a very strong squad of strong, savvy players. It's hard to single out people, but an example is junior Ben Poole, a three-year starter at sweeper. He gets better every year. We play a possession game which relies on the backline for calmness, control, and good passing. Sam Entner will play at fullback and wing with the ability to transition from defense to offense."
Mr. Burke said the 2013 edition is strengthened by junior defensive midfielder Noah Kleinhenz, junior attacker Colin Cameron, senior striker Evandro Medici and sophomore Jason Lages. Juniors Brandon Dwane, Matthew Stone Jr., and senior David DaSilva Sr. will vie for goalkeeping duties.
"We have only 32 kids in the program, down from about 50 in recent years and that's a concern," Mr. Burke said. "We have to stay healthy, but this is a junior-heavy team that is peaking and should be very strong both this year and next year. We are fortunate to have a great feeder program in the youth soccer effort on the Island."
The season began Wednesday in North Eastham against Nauset. The first home game is September 14, also against Nauset, at 4:30 pm.