The Vineyarders lost a heartbreaker and gave everything they had in the girls soccer home opener Thursday afternoon at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.
With 5:07 left to play, Dennis-Yarmouth’s Emily Edwards finished off a counterattack by tucking the ball under sliding Vineyard goalkeeper Ruby Reimann and banking the shot off the right post to score the match winner in a 2-1 Cape and Islands League victory.
Reimann made more than a dozen saves on the day; four in the second half were huge. She stopped a point-blank bid 12 minutes in, dove to block another shot five minutes later, parried a blast away from the right post with 15 minutes to play, and made another terrific diving save with 8:10 remaining.
“Ruby made some outstanding saves,” Vineyard Coach Rocco Bellebuono said. “The goal at the end was just a breakdown; we had some fatigue, and things started to open up just a little bit in the last 15 minutes. I have to figure out from a coaching perspective what I can do to give some of the girls who are in the central area a break, because we don’t have a lot of depth in the central area of midfield, so I can’t just rotate players through there.”
After the final whistle, Bellebuono addressed the team. “These are the moments that hurt,” he began. “We didn’t deserve to lose. You’ve got to light a fire in your belly and make sure it never happens again.” The coach urged the players to channel their competitive fire into positives on the pitch in the future, and ended his talk by telling his charges that they played a great game. They did, but the first few minutes were a bit shaky.
The Vineyarders started off the season on Sept. 10 with a tough loss at Falmouth, and found themselves down by a goal to the Dolphins after just three minutes on Thursday. At the 10-minute mark, Coach Bellebuono called a time-out to settle his team down.
“We played on Tuesday and took a little bit of a walloping in Falmouth, so yesterday we spent some time working on some specific things, and the one thing that we worked on [most] was making sure that everyone identified a player from the other team who they were responsible for,” Bellebuono said. “Today, before the game, I reminded them of that, and in the first 10 minutes, they didn’t do it, so I called time-out. They came over and I said, ‘Listen, this is what you have to do. I’m tired of yelling, “Who’s marking this number? Who’s marking that number?” You’ve got to do this for yourselves.’ So, between Ruby, who’s the goalkeeper, and C.J. [Walsh], the center back, I kind of turned that responsibility over to them to make sure that what they saw in front of them was all covered. And then they did it, and it changed the game.”
After the time-out, the Vineyarders gradually stopped chasing the Dolphins, improved their positioning, and tightened up defensively. Good things started to happen, the best of which occurred with 12 minutes remaining in the first half, as freshman forward Wadeline Florime Hall broke through the Dolphin defense at midfield, sprinted in alone toward the D-Y goal, deked onrushing keeper Barbara Maciel, went wide left and slotted the ball toward the right post. A Dolphin defender tried to clear the ball, but the shot had just enough steam for the ball to trickle over the line and tie the match at 1-1.
Florine gathered great lead passes from C.J. Walsh and Aubrey Holmes to split the D-Y defense for two more breakaways, once late in the first half and again early in the second, but couldn’t convert.
“She’s got some speed. It’s amazing when you see how fast she can go, even closing people down from behind,” Bellebuono said. “When she gets on the break, she’s a real threat. Now she just needs to work on getting more comfortable in a one-v.-one situation. It’s a maturity thing, but it’s also confidence. The first goal was exquisite, and that’s what you want her to remember.”
Heading into matches at Dedham on Saturday and home to Coyle and Cassidy on Tuesday at 3:30 pm, Coach Bellebuono was upbeat: “There’s a lot of promise, a great attitude out there on the field. I feel like we’re moving forward.”