Field hockey gets the ball rolling

Experienced Vineyarders hungry to play under new coach, Becky Nutton.

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A new era begins for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) field hockey program as Becky Nutton takes the reins as head coach from Lisa Knight, who retired at the end of last season after 32 years on the Vineyard sidelines, 20 of them as head coach.

Nutton played at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and coached at Davidson College in North Carolina for two years before moving to England to coach at the middle and high school levels for eight years. 

“I got to coach a whole range of ages, which was good experience; girls in fall, boys in spring,” Nutton said of her time spent across the pond.

At MVRHS, Nutton will coach a program rich with tradition and success. The Vineyarders have been a fixture in postseason play for more than two decades, and made the Division 2 state tournament last season with an 11-4-2 record, before losing a close 1-0 battle with Cohasset.

“There was strong leadership under Lisa [Knight],” Nutton said. “They have a strong tradition and team culture. There are a lot of positives from that kind of history, and it’s there for me to build on.”

One of the positives Coach Nutton is referring to is the record number of kids turning out for tryouts. “It’s a really positive thing that there are this many girls looking to play this sport,” she said.

Of her coaching philosophy, Nutton said, “The main thing is to let your actions speak for you. You have to practice at game pace to get better. If you’re not giving 100 percent, you’re wasting precious time on the field.” 

The first week of practice for the 2019 Vineyarders was a tough one, with daily morning sessions starting at 6 am and four afternoon practices to boot. “We saw the sun rise on the field,” Coach Nutton said. “It takes a lot of commitment, and they’ve risen to the challenge. I am really impressed with their overall attitude in practice. They’re hard-working, earnest girls. I’m enjoying the preseason so far.”

The varsity squad is packed with seniors (12) and juniors (9) hungry to get back out on the field and start playing, including senior captains Skyla Harthcock, Rose Herman, and Megan Zeilinger. “Our captains have been such good leaders already,” Nutton said. “They started getting ready in June.” Harthcock is a speedy attacker with strong stickhandling skills, while Zeilinger is an experienced midfielder, and Herman, an anchor on defense.

In addition to the captains are seniors Nicole DeBettencourt, Emily Gazzaniga, Jenaleigh Griffin, Chloe Hoff, Jovanna Lowell-Bettencourt, Caitlin McHugh, Emily Mello, Maddy Tully, and starting goaltender Amelia Simmons. “I’ve seen some really promising stuff from her,” Nutton said of Simmons. “I’m really excited about her season.”

Juniors include Emily Anderson, Ava BenDavid, Sydney Bierman, Sydney Brown, Ellie Dolby, Kylie Estrella, Molly Menton, Grace O’ Malley, and Charlotte Packer. Lila Mikos is the lone varsity sophomore. 

Kristen Lupine is the varsity assistant coach, and former MVRHS player Kendall Robinson will coach the JV team. “Our freshman class is very strong,” Coach Nutton said. “I think they’ll make a very strong JV team.”

MVRHS will compete in the Lighthouse Division of the Cape and Islands League, alongside Monomoy, Nantucket, Sturgis East, and Sturgis West. Falmouth, Nauset, and Sandwich from the C and I Atlantic Division are also on the schedule.

The Vineyarders have played one intrasquad scrimmage, and travel to Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School on Saturday for a preseason play day. The regular season begins on Monday at Nauset, with the home opener slated for Sept. 11 against Sandwich. The varsity plays at 3 pm, and the JV team at 4:30 pm.