Field hockey falls to No. 2 Watertown in state tourney

Unbeaten Raiders roll on home turf.

Caitlyn Dowd of East Longmeadow tries to take the ball from Vineyarder Nellie Long. The Vineyarders lost their second round playoff matchup to Watertown. — Ralph Stewart

After starting the MIAA Division 3 tournament with an exciting 2-1 win over East Longmeadow in Oak Bluffs last Friday, the MVRHS field hockey team traveled to meet second-seeded and undefeated Watertown (18-0-0) on their home turf, Sunday afternoon.

Playing the Raiders is a daunting task for anyone. In 36 seasons, Coach Eileen Donahue has led Watertown to 18 state titles. She earned her 700th career victory last month, making her one of just seven field hockey coaches in the country to reach that mark, and the only coach in Massachusetts to accomplish the feat. From 2008 to 2017, Watertown went unbeaten for 184 consecutive games, and amassed a 124-game winning streak in the process. Both are national records. Donahue was inducted into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2019.

The Vineyarders gave it their best shot on Sunday, but Watertown played as well as their record indicated and won, 6-0.

“They looked [undefeated],” Vineyard Coach Becky Nutton said. “Their record is very impressive. The coach’s record is incredibly impressive. They lived up to that record and everything we read about. They earned it, absolutely. We were going in with the attitude that we were going to do our best, and you never know what team shows up on the day, so be prepared for anything. I wanted our girls to reach this postseason tournament to get exposure beyond our league, and to get exposure to these teams because that’s the only way we will reach the next level.”

Playing Watertown on turf as opposed to grass made an already difficult task even more challenging for the Purple, who were down six goals by halftime.

“It’s a very different style of play on turf,” Nutton said. “For a team that has a feeder program, and has access to that, raises their game in a way that we can’t do on our grass field. The speed at which you can possess the ball and the different kind of stickwork you can develop … there was a lot on display on Sunday. Their entire team was fast and skillful. They scored their six goals in the first half, and we looked and felt a bit shell-shocked. I expect to see that they should be taking the championship. They were an impressive squad, they were well-coached, and they have good sportsmanship as well.”

Despite the score, the Vineyarders never wavered in their effort. “I do want to give our girls credit,” Nutton said. “They played the whole game and didn’t give up. They were going to play the game with the same desire that they’ve played any other game this season. They played their hearts out.”

The Vineyarders finished the season at 7-8-3 overall, and 4-1-3 in the Cape and Islands League Lighthouse Division. Coach Nutton was pleased with her team this season, and is looking forward to continued success in 2022.

“This has been such a great team to work with all season,” she said. “Most of the team is returning, and hopefully they can remember this season and how far they came. We’re not starting from scratch and losing a whole bunch of players, so we will continue to build on everything we have achieved this season.”