MVRHS spring sports preview part one

Kyp Cooperrider hits a volley during Tuesday's practice. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School spring sports teams have a hard act to follow this season in matching the successes of 2012. That said, the Island teams will field a host of talented athletes who should bring excellent results.

The boys tennis team is the defending state champion in Division 3. Every starter is back from the 23-0 team to compete in Ned Fenessey’s 23rd year as coach.

The girls tennis team is coming off of back-to-back Eastern Athletic Conference titles, and they progressed to the regional semifinals of the state tournament in 2012. Coach Connie McHugh will again have a strong, experienced team playing on the purple MVRHS courts.

Both lacrosse teams made the state tournament last season. The girls are the two-time defending EAC champs. Coach Betsy Dripps will have a young, hungry team on the field this season: only eight varsity players have returned to the lineup.

The always formidable Vineyard track teams return all-New England shot put and discus standout Maggie Riseborough as well as junior runner Jeremy Alley-Tarter who finished up the 2012 season ranked 15th in the state in the 800 meters.

The Vineyard sailors enter the new season with great promise. Last spring, the team competed for the prestigious fleet-racing Herreshoff Trophy for the first time in coach Andrew Burr’s seven-year tenure. The Vineyarders raced well and placed sixth overall.

The MVRHS baseball team was back in the state tourney for the first time in ten years in 2012 and figures to make a good run again this spring. The Vineyard softballers also made the playoffs but, as always, face the formidable task of competing in one of the state’s best conferences.

This week, in part one of the MVRHS spring preview, the Times takes a look at tennis, lacrosse, and track and field. Next week, the spotlight falls on baseball, softball, and sailing.

Boys tennis

This year’s boys tennis team will face heightened expectations after last year’s exceptional success. More than a tough act to follow, it may be impossible. But who would bet against a team with the same players that not only won a MIAA Division III State Championship, they also went a perfect 23-0 on the season.

“I have the whole starting lineup back again,” coach Ned Fennessy said. “It certainly suggests we should be able to repeat. But having said that other teams have improved and we will have a real challenge.”

Last year was a banner year for coach Fennessy, as he guided his team to a perfect record, notched his 250th win and won a state championship. Now in his 23rd year as coach, he said he is even more excited about this season.

“I can honestly say this is one of the most talented teams I’ve ever had, certainly one of the most experienced. They have experience playing and now experience winning,” he said.

The coach said there have been some changes to the team. As they do every pre-season, the players competed in a round robin tournament to determine who will be the top singles and doubles players.

The round robin resulted in some changes to the lineup from last year. Natty Schneider has moved into the number-one singles slot, displacing last year’s number one, Kent Leonard, who fell to the number-two singles position.

Justice Yennie rounds things out as the number-three singles player. Patrick McCarthy, a singles player last year, is now projected to pair with Jackson McBride at number-one doubles.

From there things are still up for grabs, although Justin Smith may pair up with Kyp Cooperrider for number-two doubles. John McAndrew and Jake Pertile may play as a doubles pairing.

The team will be tested early, as they open against powerhouse Dover Sherborn on the road Thursday followed by equally tough opponents Barnstable at home on Tuesday and Falmouth away Wednesday.

Although expectations are high, the coach said he made sure his players don’t get complacent.

“I told them last year was great, we won a state championship, but you have to earn it again,” he said. “I don’t want anyone thinking they don’t have to work hard. In fact we are trying to work them even harder to keep their focus. Luckily I don’t have players with big egos: they work hard. And that makes things a lot easier.”

Girls tennis

Leadership, talent, and experience should not be a problem for the two-time defending league champions. Coach Connie McHugh has five seniors on the roster; Annie Burton, Dylan Brockmeyer, Annabelle Hackney, Julia Cooper, and Katherine Donegan. Team captains Hackney and Cooper, the number-one doubles tandem, have played together for four years.

“They all have experience, with the exception of Katherine [Donegan],” coach McHugh said. “They know exactly what to expect and what the competition will bring.”

Samantha Potter, Annie Burton, and Dylan Brockmeyer will compete for the number one singles spot. Katherine Donegan, Diamond Araujo, Charlotte Potter, Josie Iadicicco, and Avery Hazell will vie for the second-doubles team.

Coach McHugh has three freshman on the team this season; Olivia Jacobs, Mia Arenburg, and Mikahla Sudarsky.

The Vineyarders will get perhaps their toughest test of the season right off the bat as MVRHS visits non-league Barnstable on Tuesday, April 2, at 3 pm. The Red Raiders were the only team, aside from Cohasset, to defeat M.V. last season. The Vineyarders host Falmouth on Wednesday, April 3 at 3 pm.

“We have a lot of leadership and we definitely have the talent to repeat as league champs,” Coach McHugh said.

Girls lacrosse

With over 50 girls out for lacrosse this year, the 2013 season promises to be an exciting one. With only eight returning varsity players from last year, the Vineyarders will field a young but talented team. Madison Hughes, last year’s high scorer who is now playing for Central Connecticut State University, will be sorely missed.

The team will feature a host of juniors and sophomores who have moved up from the junior varsity plus some talented freshmen who have been standouts in the youth program.

Coach Betsy Dripps begins her 31st year of coaching varsity lacrosse and her 20th year on the Vineyard. Laurie Gordon, who has moved to the Vineyard from Baltimore, will coach the JV team. “Laurie was an All American center in college, and she is an experienced and enthusiastic young coach who will add a lot to the program,” coach Dripps said. MVRHS teacher Amy Westburg will be an assistant. Ms. Westburg was a goalie and will be working with the younger goalies and the 24 freshmen players.

Seniors Alayna Hutchinson, Taylor Poggi, and Hannah Moore are the team captains. Coach Dripps expects Alayna and juniors Molly Wallace and Isabel Smith to be strong in the midfield. Hannah, along with juniors Mary Ollen and Alex Clark, will anchor the defense. Taylor and junior Charlotte McCarrron will key the Vineyard offense. Freshman Samantha Hargy will be in goal, following in her sister April’s footsteps. April is now playing goalie for Hartwick College.

The varsity team has its home opener on March 28 against Dartmouth at 3 pm followed by the JV game at 4:30.

Boys lacrosse

After barely missing the MIAA state tournament last year, the boys’ lacrosse team returns with a young, fast, and talented team that should make a strong push towards the postseason.

The team returns a number of talented offensive players, like senior co-captains Nick Costello, Marc Natichioni, and Cooper Chapman. Senior Thomas Wilkins will also return as a key attacker in the Vineyarder offense.

Coach Chris Greene said the team is a little thinner on defense, and they will have a hard time replacing goalie Nelson Dickson. The coach said one of three players could fill the cage this season — Austin Fournier, Ben Bilzerian, or Eli Lainkin.

The team will also feature brothers Huck and Sam Burke at defense and midfield, as well as Tjark Aldeborgh who the coach said stood out at getting groundballs.

The team also returns senior co-captain Jack O’Malley on defense, although the defense will be a work in progress, at least at the start of the season.

“We graduated about six or seven kids that played big roles on defense last year, so we are working with a lot of other players [on defense], some of whom are new to the program,” coach Greene said.

But the coach said this is a team with a great upside, and he expects them to improve as the season progresses.

“We are very young and very fast as far as our skill set,” he said. “I’m pretty optimistic about the season, It’s a nice group of kids and I think I put together a schedule that allows us to be competitive and successful at the same time.”

The Vineyarders open the season at home Friday at 3 pm against Fairhaven.

Track and field

The Vineyard girls boast one of the premier high school athletes in New England. Senior co-captain Maggie Riseborough, the first Vineyard girl to win the state division meet in two events (shotput and discus), competed with 36 elite athletes on June 9, 2012, at the prestigious All New England High School Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Saco, Maine. She placed 15th in the shotput.

Maggie is one of just four seniors, along with Dana Jacobs, Shavanae Anderson, and Ella Mahoney on Coach Joe Schroeder’s young Vineyard squad.The Vineyarders will have to cope with the losses of Lily Neville and Lucy Norris, both of whom are studying abroad this year.

Sophomore Julia Neville should be a solid performer in the 800 meters. Heptathlete Katherine Dorr and junior co-captain Mariah Campbell should provide the Vineyarders with important versatility.

On the boys side, the loss of four-event standout Rafael Maciel to graduation will be hard to overcome, but Coach Schroeder has a healthy number of talented, experienced athletes back on the roster. Junior long distance runner Jeremy Alley-Tarter, who set the state freshman and sophomore record in the 800 meters, finished last season ranked second in Division 4 and 15th in the state.

Seniors Mike Schroeder, Kyle Joba-Woodruff, and Sam Oslyn, along with Alley-Tarter, will anchor the team’s distance events. Senior Jacob Lawrence is the top sprinter. EAC javelin champ, junior Joe Turney, and seniors Andrew Freitas and Mike Cutrer, will lead the throw group. Galen Mayhew and the versatile Isaiah Maynard, who competed in a decathlon last year, will also be keys to the Vineyard’s success.

Mike Schroeder and Jacob Lawrence will be the team captains.

Along with the experienced athletes, Coach Schroeder is anxious to see how the new faces on the team perform. He won’t have long to wait. The Vineyarders, girls and boys, host two meets in the next week, beginning Saturday against Abington at 11 am, followed on Wednesday at 3 pm against league foe Somerset Berkley.