With a 12th consecutive Island Cup football win in the books, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School sports scene moves indoors for the winter season. The girls and boys basketball, ice hockey, swimming, and indoor track teams opened practice on Monday, the first step on a long road that will stretch deep into February, and hopefully longer, into the state tournaments in March.
This week, The Times will set the table for what lies ahead: the early scrimmages, the dates to circle on the calendar for big-rivalry games, and the goals each coach has for the upcoming season. For a full schedule of all Martha’s Vineyard sports home games this winter, check out The Local, which will appear in the Dec. 17 issue of the MVTimes.
The Vineyard girls have a tough act to follow from last season, when the team finished 18-5 and reached the sectional semifinals in Maureen Hill’s debut as head coach.
The 2015–16 Vineyarders should again be strong, with good size, speed, and experience. Junior co-captain Erin Hill and sophomore Molly deBettencourt are a potent pair on offense. Senior co-captain Sam Hargy is an additional force in the paint. Junior guard Whitney Schroeder can be a handful to defend, and has a good outside shot. Senior Emily Turney is back after a year off, adding a daily boost of heart and soul. “It’s a huge, happy surprise to have her back,” Coach Hill said in a phone call with The Times Monday night. “She has a great attitude and brings so much to the game.” Hustling sophomores Rose Engler, Lily Pigott, Meghan Sawyer, and Kiana Casey round out an athletic Vineyard varsity lineup.
Asil Cash will once again assist Coach Hill with the varsity team. Alyssa LeMoi will coach the jayvee team.
With nine players expected on the varsity team and just seven to eight more on the jayvee team, the Vineyarders are short on depth. They are not short on skill and experience, however.
“One positive thing is that I’ve coached most of them in travel ball since fifth grade,” Coach Hill said. “They’ve all played together, and have good chemistry. They have high basketball IQ, and know what I expect. I can do more defensively with them, like switch in a sequence. Everyone knows how to rotate. I’m not going to have any hesitation making substitutions. They’re all even at a lot of the positions. I feel very confident in any of them going into the game, and hopeful that we can stay out of foul trouble.”
The girls will scrimmage this weekend at Nauset and Falmouth Academy. The challenging regular-season schedule starts in Boston, Dec. 11, against Cathedral High School. Dec. 15, MV travels to Abington for a rematch with the Green Wave, the team that knocked the Vineyarders out of last year’s state tourney. The first home game is Saturday, Dec. 19, at 5 pm vs. St. Mary’s of Lynn.
The Vineyarders have won or shared the Eastern Athletic Conference title for the past six seasons. To keep that streak alive, Coach Mike Joyce will have to get the most out of a young, undersize, inexperienced team. On the plus side, the Vineyarders should be a fast group of good shooters.
Only four varsity players return from last year’s team, which finished 14-6 and reached the sectional quarterfinals. Senior Chase Silvia and sophomore Ricardo Andrade saw the most varsity action last year. Junior guard Nick Bond spent most of the season playing varsity ball, and senior forward Jack Reagan pulled double duty on the jayvee and varsity squads. Krishna Datta is the other senior on the roster. Coach Joyce has yet to name captains for the new season.
“We’ll have to see if the kids are ready to play,” Coach Joyce said. “We should have a good-shooting team. We’ll have to see if they’re going to be able to defend and be physical, because not many of them have played at this level before. Because of our lack of size, we’re going to have to press to cause turnovers, and try to keep the big men out of the paint by pressuring them.”
The Vineyarders will travel to Pentucket High School in West Newbury for scrimmages this weekend. The home opener is set for Friday, Dec. 11, at 4 pm vs. Dorchester-based Community Academy of Science and Health. Dedham should provide a strong nonleague test on Dec. 13. The first Eastern Athletic Conference home game is Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 4:30 pm vs. Bishop Stang.
Eight players, including both goaltenders, return for a Vineyard team that has reached the state tournament in four consecutive seasons. The girls posted a 12-6-2 record last year, but lost seven players to graduation, including mainstays Aubrey Ashmun, Olivia Ogden, Erin Hegarty, and Sydney Davies.
Rebuilding will be a formidable task, but Coach John Fiorito is excited about the new season. Talented forward Belle Dinning and rock-solid goaltender Jackie Hegarty are the senior co-captains. Junior goalie Julia Bettencourt also is stellar between the pipes. Junior defenseman Kylie Hatt is a talented two-way player with a sure shot from the point. Meg Burke is a returning senior who should log substantial ice time. Juniors Julia Levesque and Natalija Lakis, along with sophomore Sage Araujo, also return from last year’s team. Freshmen Hailey Meader and Meghan Sonia, both experienced youth hockey players, are welcome new additions to the Vineyard lineup.
“We’re looking forward to the new season,” Coach Fiorito said. “We have some experience coming back, but we’ll have a lot of newcomers. Our strength is the goaltending and a couple of the veteran players, like Kylie Hatt, Meg Burke, and Belle Dinning, and then a couple of new kids coming in who will help the jayvee kids hopefully find their way.”
Speaking of the junior varsity team: Once again, the Vineyarders will have 20-plus jayvee skaters, providing a large pool of support for the varsity lineup.
The girls first hit the ice Saturday in Sandwich for a jamboree benefiting Children’s Cove, a facility offering support to abused children from the Cape and the Islands. The Vineyard varsity home opener is Saturday, Dec. 19, at 5 pm vs. Nauset. For the first time, the Vineyarders will enter the annual Nan Rheault tournament as defending champions. MV opens the tourney against archrival Scituate on Sunday, Jan. 17 at 7 pm, and hosts either Quincy/North Quincy or Dover-Sherborn on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 18.
Last winter, the Vineyarders missed the playoffs for only the third time in Matt Mincone’s 14 seasons as head coach. As he begins his 15th year behind the Vineyard bench, Coach Mincone’s goal for his team is clear: Return to the state tournament.
In order to do so, the Vineyarders will need consistent, unselfish play and tight defense. As always, the MV schedule is demanding, starting with home scrimmages Friday night and Saturday against Framingham (a strong Division 1 team), Concord-Carlisle (Division 2 finalists) and Lowell Catholic (third seed in D3 North). The Eastern Athletic Conference schedule is also tough. Archrival Coyle Cassidy is loaded with talent, while Bishop Feehan, Bishop Stang, and Somerset Berkley also qualified for postseason play in 2015.
“We’re going to have to be five men, six counting the goalie, on the ice working together all the time,” Coach Mincone said. “If we start having individual guys on the ice, we will fail miserably. It will have to be from the goalie forward, so we’re building from the back end out. If we win games 1-0 or 2-1, we’re doing our job.”
Thirty-four skaters and four goalies attended the opening tryout Monday afternoon, an encouraging sign. Additionally, the jayvee team will be bolstered by the addition of five eighth graders. The varsity team lost several players, but 14 players return. Senior Wyatt Jenkinson should be the starting netminder, with junior Cahal Robinson also tending the twine. Coach Mincone said up to 10 forwards have the necessary talent and skills to contribute: “They have to grasp the fact that we have to work hard, because we’re not going to have any of those pretty goals this year.”
Senior defenseman Mason Jeffers and juniors Tristan Araujo and Josh Forend are the Vineyard captains. Another player to watch is senior Greg McCarron, whom Coach Mincone describes as a strong skater with exceptional vision for the game.
Island fans will have to wait a bit for the regular-season home opener. The Vineyarders host Quincy on Dec. 23 at 4:30 pm. Bishop Feehan is the first EAC foe to visit the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena, facing off with Vineyarders on Jan. 8 at 6:10 pm.
Coach Mincone is eager to get the new season underway: “We have a lot of work to do. Every game those two points are valuable.”
With the Vineyard swimming program entering its fourth year at the varsity level, third-year Head Coach Jonathan Chatinover was pleased with the turnout at the opening practice on Monday. Ten returning swimmers and 10 newcomers were in the pool at the YMCA.
“We had a lot of new swimmers come out at the preseason meeting, which was really encouraging. A bunch of them are here today,” Coach Chatinover said during Monday’s practice.
Another plus this season will be the addition of students from the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, who will be allowed to join the MVRHS swimmers for the first time.
“Hopefully, there may be four or five Charter School kids,” Coach Chatinover said. “The more numbers, the better.”
Seniors Kate Hansen, Jessica Sonia, and Julia Sauter will co-captain the Vineyard girls. Renee Goodale and Lia Potter also return for the Vineyarders. Charlotte Rooney is another strong swimmer.
The girls qualified for the sectionals in the relay event last season, and Coach Chatinover thinks they have a good shot at qualifying for the state meet in 2016. Renee Goodale should lead the way in the breaststroke and individual medley events after qualifying for the states in each last season. She is also a threat in the freestyle. Lia Potter is a state qualifier in the butterfly and another strong freestyle swimmer.
On the boys side, junior Patrick Best, currently out with an injury, and senior Tucker Cosgrove will be co-captains. Evan Sauter, Harrison Dorr, and Curtis Fisher are the other returning swimmers for MV.
The boys will hope to qualify for the sectionals in the relay after narrowly missing out last season. The Vineyarders will have four home meets, beginning Jan. 7 vs. Sandwich. All home meets are at the YMCA pool and start at 3:15 pm.
“I’m excited,” Coach Chatinover said. “If we can keep the numbers up, I think we may have some competitive dual meets, which would be really good. That and relays, and qualifying for sectionals, are always the goals.”
As the MVRHS indoor track program enters its second year, Coach Joe Schroeder is looking to build on what he had last year. With 17 of 19 athletes returning from the maiden season, he has a solid foundation.
On the girls team, junior Livvy Smith comes into this season as the defending EAC champ in the 55 meter hurdles. She finished ninth overall in Eastern Massachusetts. The girls 4 x 200 meter relay team of Juniper Ezanno, Julia Hart, Livvy Smith, and Lee Hayman should be strong as well. Madison Moreis will rotate into the relay lineup. Emma Reimer excels in the distance events, namely the 1000 meter, 1 mile and 2 mile runs.
“The beauty of this team is that they all can contribute,” Coach Schroeder said. “We had some girls who had never competed in certain events before. Lee Hayman was new to track, and ended up throwing the shot farther than anyone on the team.”
Gedvilas Aivaras, the top returning miler in the EAC, will headline the distance events for the boys team. Jake Janak will be a threat in the 55 meter dash and hurdles, along with the 300 meters.
Coach Schroeder plans to name his team captains by the end of the week.
The Vineyarders will compete in nine meets, all off-Island at Wheaton College in Norton or at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury. Five are dual boy/girl meets against EAC teams Coyle Cassidy, Bishop Feehan, Bishop Stang, Somerset Berkley, and West Bridgewater. The other four meets are invitationals.
MV opens the league schedule Dec. 13 at Wheaton vs. West Bridgewater. The first invitational is the Winter Festival, Dec. 19 at the Reggie Lewis Center.
The Vineyarders are still new to the world of indoor track — lots of athletes competing on and crowded around a ⅛-mile track — but Coach Schroeder and his team are warming to the challenge: “We’re excited, because the kids all know what to expect, in terms of travel and environment. Now we can just concentrate on training and competing.”