The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) varsity boys soccer team lost to number seven seed Norwell High School Saturday afternoon in a hard fought contest.The last time the MVRHS boys soccer team got this far in the playoffs was in 2003, under Coach Bob Hammond, when they lost to Middleboro on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw.
The Vineyard beat number one seed Medway High School 2-1 last Tuesday to reach the Division 3 South finals. Medway had lost in the 2013 state final to Belchertown High School 2-1, and also defeated the Vineyarders in the 2013 Division 3 South semifinal 2-1, so the Medway victory was particularly satisfying. In an interesting twist, Norwell High School was in the Division 3 Finals last year and lost to Medway 0-2.
It was a bright, crisp November afternoon; the royal blue Clipper uniforms contrasted beautifully with the Vineyarder’s vivid whites. The Vineyard fans outnumbered the Norwell fans by at least 3 to 1, thanks in part to the three fan busses generously chartered by Our Market, yet they were quieter than at the Medway game. Likely they were just cold – it was 38 degrees and the bleachers were in the shade. The players themselves also seemed to have less intensity than the Medway game. Perhaps they were just cold too.
The Vineyarders were strong out of the gate: Ben Poole scored a goal not even 13 minutes into the half, inspiring Head Coach Esteban Aranzabe to leap jubilantly over the Vineyard bench. The Vineyard remained in the lead for most of the first half, but with under two minutes left, Clipper Connor Horan pelted a ball into the Vineyarder net and tied up the game 1-1.
After that Norwell goal both Vineyard players and Vineyard fans turned on the intensity.
Ten minutes into the second half Vineyard frustrations were apparent. Ben Poole, Alex GordonBeck, Jason Lages and other teammates had many offensive drives but were thwarted by whistles that interrupted the momentum. With 15 minutes left in the game, the Vineyard fans tried to rally their team chanting, “I-believe-that-we-will-win” over and over. But it was not meant to be. At 7:06 left in the game, Jason Lages had a shot on goal that hit the goal post and bounced out.
With under two minutes remaining, Norwell’s Ty Studley banked the winning goal past Matt Stone and sealed the deal for the Clippers.
“We played a very difficult non-league schedule,” Norwell Clippers Athletic Director Scott Paine told The Times in a pregame interview. “We played some Division I schools; we played Brockton twice, we played Marshfield, Hingham, and Edgewood to help prepare us for the tournament.”
The Clippers have a young team and only three seniors are standouts. “The majority of kids who play are underclassmen,” Mr. Paine told The Times. “Scituate and Foxboro gave us very tough games, and we know that the Vineyard is very, very good and very talented.”
Norwell completely shut down Vineyard leading scorer Jason Lages and star defenseman Alex GordonBeck was not omnipresent. Instead, it was Ben Poole’s day to bury one ball in the net and to appear magically on defense to send Clipper drives in the opposite direction. Ben was on fire and gave it his all. Captain Brandon Dwane also looked strong, as did Noah Kleinhenz and Nianoa Cooperrider, who all had shots on goal.
Goalie Matt Stone was a standout performer in this final contest, in addition to the entire season, and had multiple saves Saturday that tested his superb athleticism with jumping and diving under intense pressure. The goals scored against him were nearly one-on-one situations where the odds just were not there.
“It was a good game,” MVRHS Athletic Director Mark McMcarthy told The Times postgame. “You had two teams that were pretty much equal and both came into this on hot streaks.”
When asked about the seemingly disproportionate amount of negative calls against the Vineyard Mr. McCarthy responded, “The officials are doing the best they can. We lost to a good team.”
“The referees did not call many of the fouls,” Coach Aranzabe told The Times. “I don’t know why but I did not want to protest. It happened before and I learned my lesson (with a red card at the October 27 Bishop Stang game). After the call is made I won’t change their decision. We missed a lot of opportunities, and today is a day we can’t miss opportunities.”
“Sometimes in sports,” Assistant Coach Ryan White told The Times postgame, “the better team doesn’t win. Our team was the more talented team, but Norwell’s work rate was high and we weren’t working hard enough.”
Mr. Aranzabe was gracious in defeat and remained exceedingly proud of his team. “They played an exceptional season.”