Martha’s Vineyard looks forward to a full sports schedule

Vineyard running back Nick Costello (center) kicks up a cloud of dust during practice on Tuesday.
Photo by Ralph Stewart

Vineyard running back Nick Costello (center) kicks up a cloud of dust during practice on Tuesday.

The athletic fields at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will once again be teeming with action as the fall sports season gets underway this week.

The Vineyard golfers, looking to improve on an 11-7 record last season, will be the first team to compete on Island soil, when they host Eastern Athletic Conference rivals Bishop Stang today, September 6, at Farm Neck.

The Vineyard football team opens the 2012 season against the Old Rochester Regional Bulldogs tomorrow, Sept. 7, at 6:30 at home.

Coach Donald Herman and his staff will unveil a new Hybrid Wing T offense that features more passing than last season.

On Saturday, the consistently strong girls and boys cross-country teams look to get off to fast starts against 10 other schools in the Vineyard Invitational. The event starts at 11 am.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the field hockey team starts the home schedule against Westport at 3 pm.

Coach Lisa Knight has a deep roster with a wealth of talent. She also has four former players on the coaching staff. Beth Blankenship and Phebe Bates will assist the varsity, while jayvee coach Nina Butler is back for a second season, with Kaylea Moore as assistant coach.

The following weekend, on September 15, the Vineyard soccer teams take center stage. The defending EAC champion boys team takes to the home pitch under the lights at 6:30 pm at against Nauset.

The Vineyarders suffered an early playoff exit last November. This time around, Coach Damon Burke is hoping for a deep run into the tournament.

In 2011, the girls soccer team suffered through a tough campaign before coming on strong in the final week of the season. Second-year coach Richard Bennett already has seen noticable improvment in the pre-season. He is also excited about the addition of longtime Vineyard Football Association player and youth soccer coach, Garry Metters, who will make his debut as the girls jayvee coach.

The Times now takes a closer look at the seven fall teams.

Boys Soccer

The Vineyard boys learned a hard lesson last fall: that winning a league championship is no safeguard against an early exit from the state tournament.

The Vineyarders lost at home to Eastern Athletic Conference rivals Bishop Feehan in the opening match of the 2011 playoffs. Coach Damon Burke and his team want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again in 2012.

“We didn’t really know what it was like to lose [upset in a playoff game],” coach Burke said. “Intensity and focus is much greater this year because they understand that your season can end very quickly if you’re not focused.”

The Vineyard coach is entering his fourth season with the school, which means that the 2012 team is the first to bear his influence through all four years. “It will be a telling year to see if what we’re doing is working,” he said.

To improve on a 10-4-2 overall record and a 7-0-1 mark in the EAC in 2011, the Vineyarders will have to overcome the loss of three top players to graduation. John Marcal and John Oliveira were two of the top five scorers in the EAC and Rafael Maciel was an elite goalkeeper and superb all-around athlete.

Fourteen varsity players and nine starters are back this season. The Vineyard captians will be seniors Jack Roberts and Marc Natichioni, along with junior Sam Entner.

Coach Burke favors having a junior captain on the roster. “I usually like to carry a junior captain so there is some continuity for the next season. They [junior captains] take a support role in the first season and then they can handle the leadership role.”

Beginning with Jack Roberts, who was the top scorer in the EAC last year, fellow conference all star Rodrigo Honorato, Martin Aranzabe, and two excellent goalkeepers in Jackson McBride and Ben Wadleigh, Coach Burke has a deep and talented roster to work with.

“We have an excellent team. We have a very strong, fit crew,” he said. “Team chemistry is good. It’s a great group of athletes, a great group of guys.”

Five members of the state champion Under-15 travel team are also on the roster: Gabe de Oliveira, Ben Poole, and Brandon Dwane, Lee Faraca and Noah Kleinhenz.

Coach Burke and assistant coach John Walsh had the added bonus of having many players arrive at the first practice in match shape, allowing for the staff to spend more time on tactics and less on extra conditioning.

The Vineyard jayvee team, coached by Matey Mateev, should also be strong. Several players figure to get playing time on the varsity squad. The team has an excellent core of defenders in Colin Cameron, Tim Roberts, Dorian Johnson, and Alex GordonBeck.

The 2012 schedule got underway on Wednesday against Nauset, a team that beat the Vineyarders twice last season.

Cross Country

Coach Joe Schroeder should again have two strong teams for 2012.

Last year, the boys were 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the EAC. All seven top runners are back, including senior captains Cooper Chapman, Michael Schroeder, and Kyle Joba-Woodruff; seniors Sam Oslyn and Job deForest; and juniors, James Roddy and Jeremy Alley-Tarter.

The boys roster has increased this season from 17 to 25, giving the Vineyarders much added depth.

“We have a solid jayvee group that would be varsity on most teams,” coach Schroeder said. “We [overall] should be pretty good. I’m really excited for the season to start; it can’t start soon enough. I think they’re ready to achieve some higher goals.”

For the girls, who were 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the EAC last season, five of the seven top runners return. Hannah Moore is the lone senior in that group, which also includes juniors Lilly Neville, Willoe Maynard, and Lucy Norris, along with sophomore Julia Neville.

“We don’t have an ace, we qualified for the states last season without a runner in the top twenty,” coach Schroeder said. “They ran well as a pack. They’re going to have to do that again [this season] but somebody will have to step up to be a number one.”

Two spots remain open for the varsity team. Coach Schroeder expects senior captain Carter D’ Angelo, and sophomores Willow Wunsch and Phoebe Dandeneau to vie for the positions.

The Vineyarders will have a busy September, with three marquee events coming up in short order.

First, on Saturday, MVRHS will welcome 10 other schools to the Island for the Vineyard Invitational. Next up, is the Manchester (N.H.) Invitational at Derryfield Park on September 22, followed by the Ocean State Cross Country Invitational at Goddard Park in Warwick, R.I., on September 29.

Field hockey

Coach Lisa Knight is excited about her Vineyard team in 2012. Based on its performance in the first two games of the season, last weekend in Scituate, she has every reason to be.

The Purple and White played in the Scituate Playday Tournament against the host Lady Sailors and division one Marshfield, tying 1-1 and winning 2-1. In the preliminary scrimmages, M.V. won all five games and scored nine goals from eight different players.

Against Scituate on Sunday, Kat Dorr scored for the Vineyarders. Kendall Robinson earned the assist. Officially, the game counted as a tie and the teams shared the points. But because the game was part of a tournament, a winner had to be determined.

In the ensuing stroke-off (as in a soccer penalty kick shootout), Isabel Smith scored for M.V. and after five shots each, again the teams were tied at 1-1 .

In sudden death, after 10 more shots by each team, Scituate finally put the ball past stellar Vineyard goalie Kathryn Antonsson.

The extended playoff-type drama was just fine with Coach Knight.

“It bodes extremely well for what’s to come,” the coach said. “I’m incredibly excited for these kids.”

In the Labor Day win over Marshfield, Kendall Robinson scored the first goal from Katie Stewart. Aubrey Ashmun scored the second, with the assist to Robinson.

Seventeen games remain on the schedule. The Vineyarders are deep and talented. The team is led by senior co-captains Katie Stewart, Kendall Robinson, and Dana Jacobs. The varsity roster boasts 25 players and the jayvees, 30. Seventeen freshmen tried out on the opening day of practice.

“We are picking up right where we left off,” coach Knight said, “We started five sophomores last year, who are now five juniors. We are still a young team.”

The team’s solid chemistry and continuity extends right through to the coaching staff. All of the assistants and jayvee coaches played for Coach Knight and all were college players.

“All the coaches played for me and know the routine,” the coach said.

Football

The Vineyarders look to improve on a 5-6 record last season.

Sixty players, evenly divided into 30 on varsity and 30 on jayvee, make up the current rosters.

Coach Donald Herman has 10 returning seniors: quarterback Alec Tattersall; center Mike Cutrer; linebacker/fullback Doug Andrade; offensive/defensive tackle Andrew Freitas; tight end/outside linebacker Stuart Hersh; safety/running back Nick Costello; running back/defensive back Brandon Watkins, defensive tackle/offensive lineman Harry West; defensive end/tight end/kicker Diego De Freitas; and split end/defensive back Jahmari Thomas; plus junior running back/outside linebacker Joe Turney.

Coach Herman said that the team’s strength should be the offensive and defensive lines.

On the downside, a lack of depth is a concern this season. “We just need to stay healthy,” the coach emphasized. Thus far, the injury bug has struck three players, Aaron Lowe, Kyle Stobie, and Tayman Brown, all of whom figure to miss at least two weeks of action.

This season, the Vineyarders will employ a Hybrid Wing T offense, which relies on an abundance of motion, sweeps, and shotgun.

The Vineyarders will put the new look to the test on Friday night at Dan McCarthy Field (6:30 pm) against familiar foe Old Rochester Regional. The teams have a history of close, low-scoring contests. “They won 15-8 last year,” coach Herman said, “It’s usually a touchdown or so between the two teams.”

Other highlights on the schedule are homecoming on October 12 against a first-time opponent, Cardinal Spellman of Brockton; a matchup with old Mayflower League rival Bristol-Plymouth on September 14; crucial home games against EAC opponents Somerset on October 19 and Bishop Stang on November 2; and, of course, the 34th Island Cup (the 65th meeting overall), against the Nantucket Whalers, on Saturday, November 17 at MVRHS.

Girls Soccer

Eight seniors graduated but 12 varsity players are back on the roster for second-year coach Richard Bennett.

The girls, led by senior co-captains Alayna Hutchinson and Finny Howell and junior co-captain Isabelle Wadleigh, look to feed off of a strong finale to the 2011 season. The team swept Cape Tech by counts of 3-0 and 5-0 and gave unbeaten Nantucket all it could handle, before bowing, 2-1.

Forty girls tried out this season, up from 30 in 2011.

“I think we’re a little stronger than last year,” coach Bennett said. “We have some freshman coming in from the U-14 travel teams who have good experience and new jayvee coach Garry Metters is a huge plus. Last year, they were getting used to me, I was getting used to them. This season we’re starting off in a better position.”

Despite losing two scrimmages over the weekend, 5-2 to Bellingham and 3-0 to North Quincy, coach Bennett noticed a marked improvement in his team. The Vineyarders were superb in the first half against both teams and led Bellingham 2-0 at halftime. The culprits in the second half of both matches were conditioning and injuries, which forced the weary Islanders to play without substitutes for the final 40 minutes.

The girls start the 2012 regular season on the road for three matches before returning home to play Whitinsville Christian on September 15 at 1:30 pm.

Golf

The Vineyard golfers will find out what they’re made of right off the bat. After being rained out against Bishop Feehan on Tuesday, the team will start out against Bishop Stang at Farm Neck today.

Coach Doug DeBettencourt likes his team’s chances this season. “I think we’re going to have a very good team this year,” he said, “It’s a very competitive schedule. We have a legitimate chance at the league title.”

Six starters from last year’s team are back this season.

The Vineyarders are led by senior co-captains Mike deBettencourt and Justin Smith.

Rounding out a strong team are seniors Brendan Maseda, Mike Piland, and Andrew Hakala; juniors Kat deBettencourt, Matt Marchand, and Ben Lukowitz; and freshman Kaitlyn Marchand.

The Vineyarders are set to play 20 matches this season, up from 18 in 2011.