In their second game of the young season, Monday afternoon the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School girls varsity soccer team faced a tough Division 1 Falmouth High School and tied 1-1.
This was also the second game for Falmouth, which was coming off a 4-0 win against Dartmouth High School. The Vineyarders lost their first game 0-2 versus Nauset Regional High School of North Eastham.
“Last week we kept [Nauset] scoreless for 75 minutes,” said Martha’s Vineyard head coach Rocco Bellebuono. “The loss was not indicative of how well the team played. The girls really translated what we’re working on in practice to the game, and that was amazing.”
Monday’s game was a strong fight, despite the tie. The Falmouth goal was scored only 2 minutes and 15 seconds into the first half by Captain Alexa Johnson. The remainder of the first half went scoreless.
Team-wide there was strong footwork, but the Vineyarders had trouble penetrating down the field. Coach Bellebuono encouraged from the sideline: “Let’s play the game and let the ball do the work for us. Have a purpose with every pass you make. Let’s find the path!”
At the half Coach Bellebuono had motivational input for the team. “[Falmouth] came out guns blazing, scored a goal, and then you stopped believing in yourselves,” he said. “There’s too much dribbling and almost everyone is guilty of having their heads down and not knowing where your teammates are on the field.”
Goalie coach Ryan White added his input: “I like to see games like this because you get to see improvement. You control your future, no one else does. Play like a champion. Be a champion. Play your game.”
After the strongly worded halftime pep talk by Coach Bellebuono, Olivia Smith scored the only Vineyarder goal 5 minutes and 11 seconds into the second half, assisted by Natalija Lakis. The sidelined ladies were shouting to their teammates on the field to use Olivia’s goal as momentum to pull the score ahead, but it was not meant to be.
Martha’s Vineyard goalie Cana Courtney had multiple awesome saves, and there was brilliant defense by Adelaide Keene. Casey McAndrews and Kaele Vecchia-Zeitz also had strong performances, and it was noted by Coach Bellebuono that these girls were “playing their hearts out.”
After the final buzzer Coach Bellebuono was pleased. He did not think it was the best performance ever, but he told his team to look at the score. “You endured 80 minutes of pressure and they only scored one goal,” said Mr. Bellebuono. “Yes, there are things to improve, but you guys should be very happy.”
The team did well defensively, but Mr. Bellebuono said that going forward they have to devise more opportunities to score.
“We really did not connect the dots,” said Coach Bellebuono. “We need to create depth and not get stressed when we have pressure. We need to have composure and work on not having tunnel vision — sometimes we are playing 10 yards apart from each other. We need to stretch out our opponents and open up the field.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Girls soccer team is light on upperclassman experience, having only three seniors and four juniors — a total of seven on a team of 17 girls. Falmouth High School, by contrast, has six seniors (three of whom are in their fourth year on varsity) and 11 juniors — a total of 17 on a team of 20 girls.
Falmouth High School head coach Greg Gilbert is in his 28th year of coaching. “Only twice in 27 years we have not made the tournament, and last year was one of those years,” he said.
Coach Bellebuono, taking the helm for his first year, said he is optimistic for a winning season ahead.
The Vineyarders play Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School at 3 pm at home on Wednesday, Sept. 10.