Girls’ soccer, meet your foremothers

Founding members of the 1984–85 MVRHS girls’ soccer team meet with today’s players.


In 1984, physical education teacher Jay (“Scho”) Schofield had a vision to expand girls’ representation in MVRHS varsity sports. At the time, field hockey was the sole girls’ sport at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High, so he came up with the idea of fielding a soccer team … easier said than done.
Coach Scho had experience founding the boys’ program a decade earlier, so all he needed to do was find some players. The recruitment process proved fruitful, and according to Coach Scho, the players really recruited themselves. The majority of the team had never played soccer outside PE class, but they had confidence and spirit. Among the original 18 players were senior captains Melissa (“Missy”) Dowley (formerly Simmons), and Paula O’Connor (formerly Gibson), as well as goalkeeper Angie Gombert.

Last Thursday, members of the 2022 program met with Coach Scho, Missy, Paula, and Angie in the MVRHS library. Now 80 years old, and in their 50s, respectively, they appreciated the chance to walk down memory lane with today’s players. And soon enough, this historic reconnection became a genial Q and A session. “What positions did you guys play?” “How was the game played back then?” “How well did the team do?”

As it turns out, everything was different. Instead of throw-ins, there were “kick-ins,” and goalies could take only three steps after saving a shot. Furthermore, there was just the varsity team, while today there are 34 more players, including a JV team. Finally, the 2022 varsity team already has five wins, while the inaugural team managed only two wins all season. Their opponents were typically much more established teams than the Vineyarders were, but in a way, that made every moment even more special. The 1984 alumni fondly recalled their first-ever goal, scored by Missy (coincidentally, Missy’s father had scored the first-ever touchdown for Martha’s Vineyard football), and a memorable goal against tough rivals Nauset scored by Paula. 

The whole experience for the founding members ultimately transcended soccer itself. Angie told the girls, “Enjoy your time together. It is a very special time of your life. I am still friends with many of the girls from this team today. I’m inspired to reach out to each of them for a little reunion of our own.” The three alumni considered their teammates “soccer sisters,” which they said helped round out their high school careers. Coach Schofield stays involved with the community too, and attended their Tuesday game against Barnstable to “shout praise,” as he calls it, from the sidelines. On Thursday, he took time to break down key plays that he observed, and also shared anecdotes about the importance of being on a team. According to 2022 Head Coach Matt Malowski, Coach Scho “clearly still had an impact on his players, as they smiled and cried behind him as he spoke.” 

The meet-and-greet was also remarkably uplifting for today’s soccer players. Many of the girls were familiar with their predecessors’ names, but never had the opportunity to really get to know them, or their stories.
Sophomore JV player Emily MacMillan said, “Talking with the 1985 MVRHS women’s team taught me and my teammates valuable history that is not usually discussed … I am so thankful to the 1985 women’s team for starting this wonderful program and community that I am lucky to be a part of.”
Coach Malowski believes the gathering served as a historic moment for girls soccer on the Island. From hearing Coach Scho’s words of wisdom to the opportunity to bond with their predecessors, he believes his players walked away with a greater sense of how whole, and significant, their community really is.