With the foul weather of the previous three days gone, the athletic fields at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School were bathed in sunshine on a mild Sunday afternoon as the Nantucket Whalers came ashore for an inter-Island triple-header of field hockey and boys and girls soccer. Through three games spanning four hours, the schools shared the points.
Leading off with field hockey, the Vineyarders and Whalers battled to a 1-1 tie on Senior Day. Prior to the start of the game, the Purple honored its dozen seniors, Skyla Harthcock (captain), Rose Herman (captain), Megan Zeilinger (captain), Nicole DeBettencourt, Emily Gazzaniga, Jenaleigh Griffin, Chloe Hoff, Jovanna Lowell-Bettencourt, Caitlyn McHugh, Emily Mello, Maddy Tully, and Amelia Simmons. All but Harthcock started the game, but Skyla was named as an honorary starter, and saw plenty of action.
The hosts carried the play for most of the match. The Vineyarders had nine shots on goal to the Whalers’ three, and led Nantucket in corners by an 8-1 margin.
MV took the lead 10 minutes into the game as Maddy Tully swept in Megan Zeilinger’s feed at the left post following a corner. The Vineyarders continued to press for another score, but couldn’t find the net.
Unfortunately, Nantucket did, via a penalty stroke just 1:30 into the second half. The Vineyarders were whistled for getting a foot on the ball, preventing it from going into the goal, and Ava Waig converted the penalty to tie the match.
After the final whistle, Vineyard Coach Becky Nutton spoke about her team’s struggles on offense and with maintaining focus for the full 60 minutes.
“It’s our Achilles’ heel; we just have a moment in the defense that we make a mistake, it leads to another, and it breaks down and, unfortunately, it was a penalty stroke today that they capitalized on,” she said. “Up until then, we kind of felt like we were on the verge of another goal through the whole first half of the game, and we wanted to follow up that first goal of the game that we earned on the corner, but it was just out of our reach, and again, another game where I felt like the score didn’t reflect the play on the field. We need to get those goals that we were working so hard generating. Another frustrating tie; that was one that we really would have liked to put away, especially on Senior Day.”
The Vineyarders followed up the Nantucket tie with a 1-0 nonleague win over Tahanto Regional on Monday in Boylston.
After swarming the Stags’ net for eight corners and 10 shots on goal, MV finally broke through, with Skyla Harthcock notching the game-winning goal on a feed from Jenaleigh Griffin with 2:30 remaining. Grace O’Malley earned the shutout in net, and Sydney Brown was another Vineyard standout.
At Dan McCarthy Field, the Vineyarders settled for a 1-1 draw with the Whalers in a Cape and Islands League Atlantic Division match that they controlled for long stretches, and, except for Coach John Walsh, they were none too pleased about it. “I’m happy with the game,” said the coach. “The players are extremely unhappy with the outcome, so I don’t have to be extremely upset. They already are. They know this was a missed opportunity, and to me, that’s also a good thing. We left points on the table, and we didn’t have to.”
In the first half, especially, the Vineyarders controlled possession, tried to spread the field, and found a fair amount of success moving down the flanks. The Whalers found little room to maneuver, except for the occasional counterattack.
“We definitely, I would say, controlled play more in the first half, a little less in the second half,” Coach Walsh said. “I told them before the game, because of the football game last night, the middle of the field was going to be a tough place to play, and it is. So we were really trying to concentrate on playing on the outsides, and it worked.”
Four minutes before halftime, the Vineyarders took the lead. Ryan Koster placed a beautiful through ball to Lucas Goncalves, who dashed past a Whaler defender and curled a perfect left-footed 20-yard shot into the right side netting.
Moushe Oliveira nearly doubled the lead seconds before halftime, sliding a shot across the crease from his knees at the left post.
The Vineyarders picked up where they left off to start the second half, but an uncharacteristic giveaway on defense gave the Whalers an opening, and Nantucket’s Jonatan Gregorio made the hosts pay with a slow-rolling shot past Vineyard keeper Josh Sampaio with 32:47 remaining in the match.
The Vineyarders had plenty of good chances to respond after the Nantucket equalizer, none better than Ryan Koster’s bid in the last minute, but the second goal would not come.
“It was a very frustrating game in a good way,” Walsh said. “We played well enough to win, but we didn’t score. We created good scoring opportunities with kids that score goals that they missed today. We made the right plays, but we couldn’t actually get the ball in the net.”
Squandered chances aside, a tough and determined group of Whalers also had a bit to do with the result.
“When we’re able to get the ball to the guys who are actually open out there, we were successful, able to move the ball up and down. It just wasn’t enough to really get our offense into high gear,” Walsh said. “But that’s a good team. They were disciplined, and they played defense organized to make it really hard for us. I have some really talented offensive players, but we just didn’t get enough good offensive opportunities today to make it happen.”
The Vineyarders had little time to rest after their Nantucket draw, and squared off with Whitman-Hanson in a nonleague match on Monday morning. In what was an ugly match played on a sloppy pitch, the Panthers scored the only goal with five minutes to play as the ball pinballed about the crease and bounced off a Whitman-Hanson leg.
Weather permitting, the Purple (4-6-3 overall, 4-1-3 C&I Atlantic) are scheduled to host Sandwich Thursday afternoon at 3 pm, on Senior Day, in the final regular-season home match.
The Vineyard girls and Lady Whalers followed the boys match on the Dan McCarthy pitch, and played to a 0-0 defensive stalemate.
Nantucket bossed the game, racking up a half-dozen corners while attacking most successfully down the right flank, but Vineyard defenders Aubrey Holmes, C.J. Walsh and Julia Dostal did a fine job of limiting quality chances, and keeper Ruby Reimann was her usual rock-steady self.
The visitors had their best chance to break the deadlock with a three-shot flurry following a corner seven minutes before halftime, but Holmes cleared the first shot off the line and the rebounds were off the mark. Two minutes later, Reimann made a terrific off-balance save, tipping the ball into the top netting and out of play.
The Vineyarders had just one shot in the first half, a Kaya Seiman boot wide right, but gave a better account of themselves in the second.
For Vineyard Coach Rocco Bellebuono, a time-out late in the first half and a halftime chat seemed to bring some life to his offensively timid charges.
“When I called them off for the time-out, I said, ‘You guys are playing like a bunch of individuals. We’re losing 50/50 balls, and you’re giving away possession.’ They went back out there, got a little bit better, and then we had a talk at halftime about responsibility, about energy, showing that energy, and how they play and the enthusiasm in how they play, and the support for their teammates, and not just being an individual and connecting as a group. It felt like the energy level in the second half increased. They definitely played harder. I think that was evident in the fact that we wound up in their half of the field for a fair amount of time.”
In the second half, freshman forward Wadeline Florime Hall started to make some inroads through the Nantucket defense, especially down the right sideline, and whistled the first Vineyard shot on goal with 23 minutes remaining. She quickly forged a second chance on a breakaway, but Nantucket keeper Macy Crowell won the race to the ball.
Down the stretch, Kaya Seiman took the Vineyarders’ first corner of the match, and Nantucket made a few threatening forays toward the MV goal, but Ruby Reimann quickly grabbed the ball out of harm’s way.
“We kept the throttle open and were pushing them pretty hard, but we just couldn’t create anything,” Coach Bellebuono said. “A couple of good things, they did manage to kind of try to keep possession a little bit better, and after the first half, moved the ball around a little bit, but it’s still the first touches, passes into nowhere, without intent, that hurt you because you just wind up giving the ball away.”