The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School girls soccer team begins the new season on Sept. 5 at 4:15 pm against St. John Paul II of Hyannis as members of a restructured Cape and Islands League. Although many Vineyard teams enjoyed notable success in the Eastern Athletic Conference over the past decade, the MVRHS girls soccer program had an especially tough time competing against powerful teams the likes of Bishop Feehan and Bishop Stang.
Next year, Barnstable, Falmouth, Sandwich, Nauset, and Dennis-Yarmouth will join the Cape and Islands mix from the Atlantic Coast League, but for now, in addition to the SJPII Lions, the Vineyarders will compete against Cape Cod Tech, Sturgis West, Sturgis East, and Rising Tide charter schools, Monomoy, and Island rival Nantucket.
Coach Rocco Bellebuono is looking forward to the change of scenery. “My goal every season is for the girls to have a great experience around the game of soccer,” he said. “This year, we have a great opportunity switching leagues, and I think that’s going to be a real positive for us. What’s really exciting for me is that there are no expectations. They don’t know what to expect. It’s like a blank slate, as opposed to the years before where you go into the season and they knew who they were playing, so there was this preconceived notion that they had. They already understood the lay of the land, and it’s hard to play in that kind of environment. Rather than winning games, it was about connecting with each other and making sure that we had a good time. We supported each other and gave everything that we could every time we stepped on the field. Hopefully, this year, we’ll be able to take that same aspect and add some wins, which would be fabulous for morale and a positive attitude. They’d have something they’d really be proud about. They’re playing against girls at a similar level, and they’re going to compete.”
Senior Alexis Condon is the team’s primary captain at present. Coach Bellebuono will add additional captains after he sees the team on the field once the season gets underway. Alexis is joined by seniors Erin DeBettencourt and Nattielly Dias. Juniors are Madia Bellebuono, Julia Dostal, Bella Giordano, Sasha Lakis, Nina Moore, and Carly Uva.
The team has a healthy contingent of sophomores, starting with capable goalkeepers Ruby Reimann and Becket Wadleigh, and including Hope Bettencourt, Chloe Combra, Brandyeni Ferreira, Maria Frangos, Kate Howell, Maria Clara Lacerda, Kiera McCarthy, Amanda Moreis, Stella Napior, Klara Reimann, Kaya Seiman, Gabriella Vieira, and Willa Welch. Delilah Hammarlund, Isabelle Murphy, and Ella Oskan are promising freshmen.
More than 40 players signed up at the beginning of tryouts last week, more than enough to field varsity and JV squads. Nicole Pearson is the varsity assistant coach, Ryan White will coach the goalkeepers, and Matt Malowski is the JV coach.
After one week of practice, Coach Bellebuono sees positive signs on the pitch. “The girls are really feeling it,” he said. “I think that they’re really connected to each other, already, before the season even started.”
The Vineyarders played against a team of adult women from an Island summer recreation league and prevailed, 2-1, which the coach termed an “awesome” result. “I was really happy with what I saw,” he said. “It looked like soccer, and there was a purpose to the way they were playing. There were some real positives.”