The seventh-seeded Vineyard boys varsity soccer team faced a tough, seasoned group of Scituate Sailors in the opening match of the MIAA Division 3 South Sectionals, Saturday night at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs. The match was a tense, physical affair, full of intensity and grit, but not especially pleasing to the eye. In the end, the 10th-seeded Sailors held off a late Vineyard charge and gutted out a 3-2 win.
The visitors carried the play throughout much of the first half. The Scituate defenders played a high line and employed the offside trap to keep the Vineyarders hemmed in their own end. “They pressured us from the beginning,” Vineyard Coach Esteban Aranzabe said. “You have to keep patient and try to clear the ball as quick as possible and get out of the back.”
Twice in the first 10 minutes, Vineyard goalkeeper Joao Goncalves charged out toward an onrushing Scituate forward and slid to grab the ball out of danger. The second time, the ball was poked from his grasp and trickled back through the crease. Greg Broderick tapped the ball into the yawning net and put the Sailors on top, 1-0. The Vineyarders thought the ball was secured in their keeper’s hands, but play was allowed to continue and the goal stood.
The game proceeded with high, long balls aplenty, and consecutive passes were few. In the 23rd minute, the Vineyarders finally broke free and penetrated the Sailors defense, forcing a free kick just inside the left corner flag. Gabe Bellebuono stepped up and blasted a line-drive inswinger that skimmed off the left post and the underside of the crossbar into the top of the net for a stunning equalizer.
Following the goal, the Vineyarders had more of the ball, but quality chances were few, and the teams went to the break tied at 1-1.
The Vineyarders pressed the attack to start the second half, making good use of space down the flanks and forcing an early free kick at close range. Against the run of play, the Sailors stunned the hosts on the counterattack at the 6:11 mark. Matthew Foley took a cross in the box and put the ball past keeper Goncalves for a 2-1 lead, sucking the air out of the large, partisan crowd.
The goal energized the Sailors, who struck again on another counterattack 11 minutes later. The sequence began with Miles Jordi leading Miles Albert with a slick through ball up the middle toward the Scituate goal. Sailors keeper Aaron Nelson collected the ball and punted it downfield. Matthew Foley gathered the ball, made a beeline for the Vineyard net, and slotted the ball home for his second goal of the night.
Down 3-1, the Vineyarders refused to yield. With 10 minutes left on the clock, Jholimar De Freitas bolstered Vineyard hopes and ignited the crowd by taking a Miles Jordi feed and ripping a shot into the bottom left corner from the edge of the box to make it 3-2.
From there, the Vineyarders were at their best, pressing relentlessly for the tying goal. Scituate stayed compact, allowed the hosts little room to shoot, and ultimately weathered the storm.
The Sailors advanced to play their neighbors from Norwell, while the Vineyarders finished up the season at 11-6-2 and Eastern Athletic Conference champs, not bad for a team that lost 16 players to graduation and carried nine sophomores and six freshmen on a roster of 27.
“It was a good game,” Coach Aranzabe said, following the loss. “It is tough, but we knew from the beginning of the year that that we had a young team, and it was a good run. Scituate is a good team, we knew that. So, somebody has to win. Nobody likes to lose a game, but it was a possibility. I knew that it was tough. They [Scituate] play tough, tough teams … they came with a mission to beat us, and they did it.”