Updated Oct. 29
Vineyard athletes made a strong showing during the Battle in the Atlantic against the Whalers on Saturday on Nantucket, bringing forth a new inter-Island tradition while defending possession of the Island Cup for another year.
While the football teams’ contest over the coveted Island Cup has been a longtime highlight for the inter-Island rivalry between Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) and Nantucket, this year brings recognition to the boys and girls soccer and field hockey teams through the new Golden Anchors awards.
MVRHS Athletic Director Mark McCarthy and Nantucket High School Athletic Director Travis Lombardi worked together to create the three new Golden Anchors, as Vito Capizzo and John Bachellor did when they started the Island Cup Trophy decades ago.
“It’s exciting that now all the teams get an opportunity to get the recognition and play for a trophy that can be shared, like the Island Cup has been for decades,” McCarthy said, adding the plan was to have this type of rivalry sporting event on the last Saturday of October moving forward.
Nantucket High School had plenty of “Whalers Pride” messaging across its fields, and fans from both sides were amped up for the matches. Many cars also sported spirited messages like “Go MV, Beat Nantucket!” or “Squash Those Grapes!” while others displayed a show of support for specific players.
The Golden Anchor competitors from MVRHS had varying degrees of success this season before entering Nantucket. The girls soccer team came with the strongest season, with a 9-5-2 record. The boys soccer team came in with a 7-7-3 record. The field hockey team has had the toughest year among the three programs, coming in with a 1-9-4 record.
The first team to acquire the inaugural Golden Anchor was the Vineyard’s boys varsity soccer team, with a 2-0 victory over the Whalers. After the win, the boys stormed the field carrying the new trophy high.
Head Coach John Walsh said the Golden Anchor was “very secondary,” because they needed the win to enter the playoffs. “This was a classic win-and-you’re-in situation, and the Anchor is a great bonus,” Walsh said. “We took care of business the way we needed to, to win the game.”
Although Walsh, who grew up on the Vineyard, felt the rivalry games against Nantucket never needed anything extra, he said it was good for the teams to “have something to play for.”
The varsity girls soccer team also won a Golden Anchor trophy, and secured a playoff run with a 4-1 victory over Nantucket. MVRHS varsity girls soccer Head Coach Matt Malowski said getting the win during the inaugural season of the Golden Anchor was special, especially since the team “worked their butts off.”
“Twenty years from now, 30 years from now, they can say they were the first ones to win it, and it’s going to say ‘2023 Martha’s Vineyard Girls Soccer’ on that trophy,” Malowski said. “I think it’s going to be something, hopefully, these guys are going to remember for the rest of their lives.”
While trying to beat their Island rival is always a motivator for MVRHS athletes, the Golden Anchor brings an additional sense of competition and fun for the players and fans.
“I think it’s good for us, because the girls’ soccer team has struggled a lot in the past, and I think this … [shows] how far we’ve come,” said Paige Malowski, girls varsity soccer captain.
“I think it’s just really nice to have this, especially being seniors,” said Georgia Magden, another MVRHS girls varsity soccer captain. “As a whole, as a group, it’s a really great buoy right before we head into playoffs to be riding that wave, and I’m just really excited for the rest of the season.”
The final, but certainly not the least-attended game on Saturday was the football match for the 74th annual Island Cup.
The Vineyarders sank the Whalers with an incredibly tight 24-21 victory, with a field goal within the final seconds of the game.
The Vineyard win broke a tie for the longtime rivalry series; MVRHS is now 22-21 in Island Cup matchups.
“It’s unbelievable for our Island,” MVRHS football Head Coach Tony Mottola said. “You’ve got two Islands playing against each other in the Atlantic Ocean, and for us to win one at home last year when nobody thought that we could, and then to come out here in hostile territory and come out [victorious] again, it shows a resiliency of these kids, and the belief that they have in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
Whalers fans booed the MVRHS team as they entered Vito Capizzo Stadium to start the game, and the Vineyarders struggled in the first half. The defense gave away 14 points in the first quarter, and scored a touchdown with an extra point in the second quarter.
Early in the third quarter, the Vineyarders were down 21-7. But the team rallied and tied it up, scoring 11 points in the final quarter. As the clock ticked down to the last seconds — with players and fans from both sides watching anxiously — the Vineyard knocked through a winning field goal.
Once the game clock counted down to zero, MVRHS students rushed the field to rambunctiously celebrate and cheer, closely encircling the football players holding up the Island Cup high and proud.
“It just goes back to the way we’re practicing,” Mottola said. “We make practices really difficult. We challenge them on every single second of every single practice, and the kids never feel like we’re out of it. They always feel like we’re just in the mix, and whatever happens, we can come back from it … and, again, they’re Vineyard kids, but they’re tough kids.”
The practices seem to be paying off, considering the MVRHS football team improved its season record to 5-3, compared with last year’s 2-8 record.
Not all Vineyard teams won their matches on Saturday. Despite a hard-fought game against Nantucket, the MVRHS field hockey team lost 6-0. Although Head Coach Becky Nutton emphasized to the girls the importance of the memories and bonds forged through the sport, some of the players couldn’t hold their emotions back.
“They’re a really close team,” Nutton said. “They care deeply about their seniors, and this was our last time playing altogether — it was the last game, no postseason play this year — all of that heart went into this game.”
Nutton said this was a young team, and they seemed to improve with each game, finding more of their stride midseason. During their first meetup with Nantucket, the field hockey team lost 8-0, so Nutton said Saturday’s match was also important to see improvements.
“We’ll, hopefully, find that we ignited that spark in those freshmen and those sophomores to want to keep building,” Nutton said. The coach also gave a shout-out to this year’s seniors, Sofia Ines Balsas Fuentes, Sophia Roads, Caroline Dolby, Clara Mikos, and Reese McCraken: “This young team really stepped up and played their hearts out for them.”
After the football game, Vineyarders returned home aboard a Steamship Authority vessel. As the MVRHS teams returned to their home Island, they were met by cheering fans and blaring, congratulatory horns and sirens from Vineyard first responders.