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MVRHS soccer

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End of the line for boys soccer.

Jason Lages walks back to midfield after the final whistle as jubilant Norwell players celebrate. –Photos by Ralph Stewart

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.

Purple painted Vineyard fans were smiling early in the first half.
Purple painted Vineyard fans were smiling early in the first half.

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.

Vineyard goal scorer Ben Poole rushes up field ahead of Norwell's Connor Horan.
Vineyard goal scorer Ben Poole rushes up field ahead of Norwell’s Connor Horan.

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.

Norwell's Connor Grant and the Vineyard's Yannick Gonsalves contest a header.
Norwell’s Connor Grant and the Vineyard’s Yannick Gonsalves contest a header.

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.

A great season ends too soon.
A great season ends too soon.

“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.”

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The Clippers win 2-1.

Martha's Vineyard fans filled three busses and cheered on their team to a first goal to lead Norwell just minutes into the Division 3 South final game at Taunton. –Photo by Ralph Stewart

Updated at 4:45 pm Saturday.

For about 25 minutes on a sunny but cold Saturday in Taunton, the Martha’s Vineyard varsity soccer team led the Norwell Clippers 1-0, and visions of a trip to the state championships danced in the heads of the scores of Vineyard fans who filled the stands to cheer on their team in the Division 3 South finals.

Jimmy DiMattia, Andy DiMattia, Daniel Costello, Cooper Wilson are on the MV football team and took one of the three fan busses to Taunton. – Photo by Edie Prescott
Jimmy DiMattia, Andy DiMattia, Daniel Costello, Cooper Wilson are on the MV football team and took one of the three fan busses to Taunton. – Photo by Edie Prescott

Members of the MVRHS football team, who had triumphed over Bellingham on Friday night at home, were some of the supporters who arrived in three fan busses. Andy DiMattia told the times, “We came to support the school, see how they’re doing. They’ve come pretty far in the playoffs so it’s good to show some support.” Cooper Wilson added, “They’re always out there to see us play so we thought we’d return the favor.”

With just over 27 minutes remaining in the first half, Ben Poole scored for the Vineyard, and the team remained in the lead until Norwell’s Connor Horan kicked a goal with two minutes left to play, leaving the teams tied at half time.

The teams remained tied through the second half. With less than two minutes left in the game, Clipper Ty Studley scored the second and winning goal for Norwell, assisted by Connor Horan.

It was a hard fought match.  Vineyard coaches Ryan White and Esteban Aranzabe told MVTimes correspondent Edie Prescott that they believed the better team had not prevailed.

“I’m proud of this team, said Coach Aranzabe, “And I applaud them for an exceptional season.”

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Athletes were on the field running, jumping, kicking and sweating.

The football team takes a brief water break during an early morning hell week practice on Tuesday. (Photo by Michael Cummo) — Photo by Michael Cummo

Several hundred Island high school athletes are catching their breath as pre-season practices wind down in advance of competitive play next week.

While pre-season doesn’t include the “Hell Week” of two-a-day practices common a decade ago, coaches here push their charges with two or more hours of conditioning and drills to prepare often under-manned squads for Eastern Athletic Conference play.

Football coach Don Herman, in his 32nd year, pushed play repetition in the early going with QB Mike Mussell returning after missing a season with a thumb injury. With only 50 candidates for the varsity and JV programs, Mr. Herman is maximizing skills and minimizing the potential for injury. “The fact is that most injuries occur in practice, not in games, and the days of using JV players as tackling dummies is long past,” he said.

Firs-year soccer coach Esteban Aranzabes has installed a system he learned in his native Uruguay and which served him well as coach of the Island’s U-18 squad. “The game begins in the locker room, not on the field. We stress constant movement in practice for conditioning and drills. Players move 80 percent of the time in games, we want to simulate that in practice. We use drills that stress a unitized team effort, including walking to the field in two lines,” he said.

Cross-country and track coach Joe Schroeder, in his 27th season, has learned over the years that the key to preparation lies in mental preparedness and goal-setting. “Cross-country is more of a mental sport and a team sport than many realize,” he said. “The kids are better prepared when they come in pre-season. They have to prepare themselves for the course. This sport requires athletes to be mentally strong. We’re not memorizing plays. Our work is goal-setting and belief in self, understanding that the gap in distance between first place and fifth place is important to the team, for example.”

The first games of the season begin next week. The varsity and junior varsity golf teams play Somerset Berkley Regional High School on Tuesday at 2:45 pm at Farm Neck golf club. Both the boys and girls soccer teams play on Wednesday, with the boys travelling to Nauset Regional High School for a 4 pm game and the girls taking on Nauset at home at 3 pm.

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Yannick Gonsalves (right) put his all into a header late in the second half against Dartmouth. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Archrivals MV United and Dartmouth met on the pitch Sunday at Veterans Park in Vineyard Haven with first place at stake in a boys Under-18 South Coast Soccer League travel soccer clash.

Kane Araujo heads the ball out of trouble as Tim Roberts backs up the play.
Kane Araujo heads the ball out of trouble as Tim Roberts backs up the play.

Though the contest did not always resemble the beautiful game, the match crackled with intensity from start to finish, with the teams playing to a 1-1 draw.

With the result, the Vineyard remained at the top of the table, unbeaten with four wins and a draw. Dartmouth fell to fourth place at 3-1-1.

MV United came into the match with 25 goals scored and just one conceded after a string of lopsided victories over lesser opponents, but Dartmouth provided a rude awakening for coach Esteban Aranzabe’s side.

The visitors struck early, ten minutes into the match, scoring on a rebound into the bottom left corner, putting United in the unfamiliar position of playing from behind. The Vineyard dominated possession for the remainder of the first half but failed to equalize. The favored form of attack in the first half was the long ball sent down the right flank.

MVU had three good chances, two coming from Jason Lages crosses into the box and another following Alex GordonBeck’s pitch-length run. Dartmouth threatened twice more on set pieces but Vineyard keeper Matt Stone was up to the task.

Dartmouth carried a 1-0 lead to the halftime break.

With a strong wind at their backs to start the second half, the Purple and Black stormed out of the gate, putting four shots on target in the opening 15 minutes. The long passes of the first half were limited in favor of more effective short passes. Kane Araujo and Lee Faraca created the first attempt but the Dartmouth keeper tipped the ball over the crossbar. Ten minutes in, the Vineyard drew level. Jason Lages ran down the left flank, put on a burst of speed through two defenders and slid the ball to Yannick Gonsalves, who split two more defenders and slotted the ball through the goalie’s legs from the penalty spot. Minutes later, Gonsalves nearly put United in front with a deft chip shot that looped over the goal.

Dartmouth weathered the storm and stiffened their defense for the remainder of the match. Each side had their share of set pieces down the stretch, but the points would be shared on the day.

Jason Lages hurdles the Dartmouth keeper after attempting a shot.
Jason Lages hurdles the Dartmouth keeper after attempting a shot.

“This is the kind of game that we were looking for all season,” Coach Aranzabe said after the match. “We were looking forward to this game. The goalies work hard, the coaches work hard, and the wind was so strong. [In the first half] We brought our play to their play, which was kick and run. The pressure was a lot, but that happens when you play weaker teams and then you play a good team.”

Around the SCSL

The big Under-18 match headlined a busy weekend in SCSL play. The boys U-12B Hammers traveled to play Swansea Somerset on a hot and muggy Saturday afternoon. The Hammers were slow to start but benefited from an own goal in the 17th minute. Josh Dix doubled the Vineyard lead six minutes from halftime with a well-struck shot from outside the box.

The hosts pulled one back in the second half but Hammers keeper Adam Knight made several outstanding saves to preserve the win.

The U-14 girls rebounded from their only defeat this season May 3 at Oceana with a 4-1 win Saturday at Norton. Evelyn Medeiros started the scoring and finished the match with two goals. Olivia Pouliot scored the second goal and dished out two assists. Sasha Lakis chalked up a goal and an assist.

The MV United U-14 boys improved to 5-1 on Saturday by blanking Freetown-Lakeville, 6-0. Lukah Vieira scored the hat trick and Nahuel Aranzabe earned the shutout.

The U-16 girls dominated Dartmouth, 4-0. The teams were deadlocked 0-0 at halftime but M.V. dominated the second half. Natalija Lakis notched a hat trick and Madison McBride scored the other Vineyard goal from a stellar Lakis cross. Cana Courtney earned the clean sheet in net.

In other action, the U-15 boys traveled to Norton and won, 4-2; the U-12 MV United Blues lost to visiting Dighton-Rehoboth, 4-0; and the U-11 girls lost to Norton, 4-2, at Veterans Park.