The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) field hockey team started off the MIAA Division 3 tournament by defeating East Longmeadow, 2-1, on a beautiful, brisk, and windy Friday afternoon in Oak Bluffs.
“This is what we’ve strived for all season, to get to this point where we’re in the postseason,” Vineyard Coach Becky Nutton said. “We got to play at home in front of our fans, and every game from this game on is a gift and opportunity for them, and they took the opportunity today. I’m really proud that they are putting together all of these things that we’ve been building all season.”
The match between the 31st-seeded Vineyarders and No. 34 Spartans was fast-paced and entertaining from the opening whistle. The teams played to a scoreless stalemate through the opening 15 minutes, but Andrea Morse put the Vineyarders in front five minutes into the second period by sweeping Izzy Blake’s cross through a crowd in the crease. “We practiced for exactly that moment,” Nutton said, “just taking the time to get her feet set and get ourselves ready for that touch-in instead of a weak attempt. So that practice paid off for Andrea.”
East Longmeadow responded with a trio of good scoring opportunities, hitting the left post on a looping 15-yard shot before Sophie Sares tied the game following the second of successive corners. “We gave them time to take a shot, and that hesitancy stepping out to pressure them on that little slip pass cost us,” Nutton said. “After that, I said, ‘We are not giving them any space inside our defensive circle.’”
The Vineyarders came out sharp and focused after halftime, and quickly regained the lead. Aileen Mahoney scored her first goal of the season, from a short corner, poking the ball over outstretched Spartans goalie Natalie Merrick after Alana Nevin had taken the initial shot. “She’s a really hardworking center midfielder,” Nutton said of Mahoney. “She does some key positions on corners, so for her to score in this game was really exciting for us. A junior, I’m really proud of her.”
The fourth quarter was a nail-biter, as the Spartans caused several anxious moments in the Vineyard crease. Two shots rolled just wide of the right post, while goalie Reese McCracken dove to poke one shot away and kicked out another.
With one minute to go, the Vineyard defense got the ball to midfield and killed off the remaining seconds to preserve the win and earn a second-round date at second-seeded Watertown on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm.