The Island 2013 year in sports included some wondrous turnarounds, several milestones and a couple of feel-good firsts.
Boys tennis team repeats in Ned’s swansong
While several Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) varsity teams qualified for post-season play and the boys basketball team reached the state final four, the boy’s tennis team repeated as state champs, capping coach Ned Fennessy’s 23rd and final year at center court.
Few coaches have the chance to go out on top on their own terms. Mr. Fennessy became one of the select few after his Vineyarders defeated Bromfield of Harvard 4-1 at Clark University in Worcester to repeat as MIAA state Division 3 champions. Over his final two seasons, the Vineyard boys tennis team amassed a record of 44-1.
Known for his commitment to sportsmanship and academics throughout his tenure, Mr. Fennessy is retiring after 23 years in charge.
“Awesome, one word, awesome,” the coach said when asked by The Times to sum up the second consecutive state title. The Vineyarders, 23-0 last year, finished up 21-1 in 2013. Under Mr. Fennessy, the tennis team made it to the year-end team tournament for 20 consecutive years.
MVRHS athletic director Mark McCarthy said, “Ned’s dedication to the sport and to the team is second to none. I think we will see him around the courts next year even if he isn’t coaching. I don’t think we will find a replacement for Ned. We can only hope to find someone to follow him.”
Soccer boys season to savor
Though their run in the state tournament came to a premature end, the 2013 Martha’s Vineyard boys varsity soccer team was nearly perfect for two months.
The relatively young booters improved on an 8-5-5 record in 2012 to finish the regular season unbeaten at 15-0-2, conceding a stingy four goals along the way. The undefeated (8-0-0) Eastern Athletic Conference league champs reached number 17 in the Boston Globe poll and entered the state tournament with 14 consecutive wins. They made it 15 straight with a 2-1 home win over Scituate in the MIAA state Division 3 South Sectional quarterfinal. The top-seeded Vineyarders then lost in the sectional semifinal 2-1 in OT to 5th-seeded Medway at Canton High School. Medway played for the Division 3 state championship, losing 2-1 in overtime to Belchertown.
The story wasn’t worst to first, like the 2013 Red Sox, but the Vineyard had a baseball turnaround to be proud of. August 15, the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL), just 26-27 one year ago, capped off a magical third season by winning the FCBL over the two-time defending champion Nashua Silver Knights. The Sharks swept the best of three series 2-0.
The local franchise in the wooden bat summer collegiate league finished the regular season in first place, at 35-18, to earn its first-ever playoff berth and followed up that success by winning all four post-season games en route to the title. The Sharks won at home in front of 861 fans at The Tank.
Vineyarders Tad Gold, a Shark for all three seasons and Sharks’ rookie Jack Roberts, MVRHS valedictorian two months prior to winning the FCBL title, savored the moment before heading off to college. Tad, a 2012 FCBL all-star, attends Endicott College and Jack began at Williams College in September.
Vineyard golfers up to par
The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School golf team led all Island teams in a variety of categories.
First, the team had to win five of its final six matches to qualify for the state tournament and did it. Next, the very young Vineyarders were led to victory in their final match by senior co-captains Matt Marchand and Kat deBettencourt, perhaps the only woman to captain a male-dominated Cape and Islands golf team, certainly the first in memory.
In one memorable fall afternoon at Dennis Highlands Country Club, the Vineyarders made the most of their tournament opportunity, topping the field of 11 schools to win the MIAA Division 3 South Sectional (Cape and Islands) championship. With the stunning victory, the Vineyarders, for the first time in coach Doug DeBettencort’s 10 years behind the tee box, advanced to play in the MIAA Division 3 state finals, finishing 10th in the state.
Vineyard gridders take Island Cup lead
It was a long wait but the MVRHS football team is now first in the legendary Island Cup competition between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The Islanders defeated Nantucket, 14-0, on November 30 at Vito Capizzo Stadium on Nantucket, to capture the 35th Island Cup. The shutout was the first on Whaler soil since the pre-Cup early 1960s. The teams first met on the gridiron in 1953.
The Vineyarders have long trailed in the traditional season-ending game, but 10 consecutive wins for the Purple broke a tie in the Island Cup series, which dates back to 1978. Martha’s Vineyard now leads the competition for the coveted trophy, 18-17. Both teams finished the season with 5-6 records.
The Vineyarders dominated the game with a steady running attack, and took advantage of two early Whaler turnovers to post an early lead, then controlled the football and the clock the rest of the way.
Sophomore running back Jacob Cardoza scored both Vineyard touchdowns.
Austin Chandler sparked the first score, recovering a fumble to stop Nantucket’s opening drive.
On the Vineyarders’ second offensive play from scrimmage, Cardoza took a handoff and ran 66 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 6-0 lead.
Chandler grabbed another fumble recovery on the next series, and again Martha’s Vineyard took advantage. Quarterback Tony Breth marched the team down the field. Cardoza capped the long drive with a four yard touchdown run. He also ran for the two-point conversion. The Vineyarders took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
The defense shut out the Whalers offense, and sealed the win when senior Joe Turney intercepted a pass with less than three minutes left in the game.
Last February on the hardwood, the Edgartown Eagles captured both the girls and boys junior high hoops championships.
The girls final was a hotly-contested game between two evenly-matched teams, each with a prolific scorer. Edgartown’s Erin Hill scored 26 points, while O.B.’s Molly deBettencourt had 18 as the Lady Eagles earned a 44-38 win.
In the boys championship, the Charter School Chargers reached an interscholastic final for the first time and brought a huge contingent of fans to the MVRHS gym. The game was a barnburner well into the second half but in the end, Edgartown proved to be the better team on the day, winning 56-40.
Boys hoopsters knock out Wareham, reach Garden
Finally, the boys hoops squad learned that payback is sweet. The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys basketball team had to wait 12 months, but last March at the University of Massachusetts Boston campus in the MIAA Division 3 South Sectional final they knocked out top-seeded Wareham, 77-71.
Last year, in the same game at the same venue, the Vineyarders watched their hopes of a state title disappear in a 70-65 loss to the Vikings, a game in which M.V. never recovered from an early 21-3 deficit.
Nearly 300 Vineyard fans, many wearing tee-shirts with “Beat Wareham” printed across the chest, made the trip and easily out-yelled their Wareham counterparts.
Wareham (22-2) came into the game riding a 22-game winning streak and got outstanding play from senior Darien Fernandez, who scored 21 points. Sam Brogioli scored 21.
Izak Browne and Deshawn James each scored 15 points for the Vineyarders. Jack Roberts had 13 and Navardo Anderson 11. The Vineyarders scored eight three-pointers; three by Browne, two each by Roberts and Brandon Watkins, and a huge trey by Kane Araujo to tie the game at 67-67, with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“It was such a good game, back and forth,” coach Mike Joyce said following the win. “We made some big threes to start. Brandon, especially in the first half, made some huge threes. In the second half, we really worked the ball inside and Navardo Anderson made free throws, big plays all the way around.”
With the win over Wareham, the Vineyarders advanced to the MIAA state Division 3 semifinals to play the defending state champs from Danvers on the parquet floor at the TD Bank Garden. After a thrilling contest in which neither team led by more than seven points, Danvers squeezed out a 50-47 win and went on to win a second consecutive state title. The Vineyarders, meanwhile, left everything on the hallowed Celtics’ court and returned to the Island with heads held high.