The Vineyarders and Whalers renewed their long rivalry on the soccer field this past week. The boys’ team traveled to the Grey Lady to turn back a hostile crowd and defeat a talented team, while the girls lost a tight yet ultimately frustrating game to the Whalers at home.
After defeating the Whalers last week, the boys’ golf team followed with an up-and-down week, beating Mashpee on the road, losing a nail-biter to Old Rochester at home and then winning a match at Sturgis.
Meanwhile, the field hockey team beat Nantucket at home in a defensive showdown, the football team won a close game on the road against Carver and both the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams won matches to remain undefeated on the young season.
In perhaps their best-played game of the season, the Vineyarders out-hustled, out-shot and basically outplayed the Whalers in front of an excited home crowd, only to come up on the losing end of a 2-0 shutout.
“It’s frustrating for a lot of reasons,” coach Russ MacDonald said. “We must have out-shot them at least two to one, but every time we had a shot it was right at their goalie.”
The Whalers’ goalie, Shantel Hanniford, was in the right position all game, turning back shot after shot including several corner kicks and cross kicks.
The Vineyarders fell behind 1-0 in the 26th minute when Nantucket forward Kate Macleolan scored on an assist from Grace Macleolan. While falling behind to a rival like Nantucket might have discouraged some teams, the goal only seemed to put a charge in the Vineyarders who buckled down and didn’t allow a scoring threat for the rest of the half.
The Vineyarders had the most scoring chances in the second half, as the midfielders kept the ball in Whalers territory while the forwards and sweepers sliced through the defense. The game became more emotional toward its end, as the small crowd urged the home team on and taunted the Whalers and their small contingent of fans. At one point, a small group of football players joined the sidelines and cheered on their fellow Vineyard athletes.
The Vineyarders had a prime scoring opportunity in the 28th minute when Rachel Schubert sent a pass into the crease toward teammate Erin Morris, who tried to head the ball into the net but missed to the left.
The Whalers put the game on ice in the 22nd minute on a bizarre goal when forward Brianna Vittorini emerged from a scrum of players in front of the Vineyarders net and softly punched a ball past goalie Kia Minor. The ball took a strange hop after Minor rushed forward, and slowly dribbled to the back of the net to make the score 2-0.
Although the Vineyarders played hard for the final 10 minutes, at one point producing four quality shots on goal in less then two minutes, the Whalers and Hanniford snuffed out every threat.
With the loss, the girls fell to a disappointing 0-5-1.
“We’ve played better then our record indicates . . . we’ve played with a lot of heart,” coach MacDonald said.
After losing 17 seniors to graduation following one of the best seasons in the program’s history, few people expected much from the boys’ soccer team this season. Only a handful of starters on this year’s team had varsity experience, and the formerly senior-laden team was now reliant on juniors, sophomores and even freshman at several key positions.
But with their record now at 5-0-2, including a big win over inter-Island rival Nantucket on the road Wednesday, many people are taking notice of a team which could live up the standards of last year’s team, which went 17-2-3 and won the regular season South Coast league title.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised at the [team’s] record, because I knew we had some great players,” coach Bob Hammond said. “I’m more surprised at how these players have taken ownership of this team so quickly. They’ve put their own stamp on this team and made it their own . . . they’ve given it their own personality.”
Wednesday’s game against Whalers typified the team’s ability to overcome adversity, as they found themselves surrounded by a spirited, at times rabid, Nantucket home crowd. Several hundred fans filled the stands, some painted in the Nantucket school colors with large groups joining in for some off-color chants.
“It was a bit harsh at times,” coach Hammond said of the Nantucket crowd. “Some of the behavior was the kind you would find in an international match.”
But the inhospitable environment didn’t faze the Vineyarders, who scored early on a long kick by junior midfielder Ryan Dwane which might have been redirected by senior Nico Cuba. The two teams locked down for the rest of the half and well into the second with the score remaining knotted at 1-0
Senior Scott Merritt made his first start in goal and made the most of the opportunity, turning back five shots in the first half including a penalty kick which seemed to drain the momentum of the Whalers and the emotion of the crowd.
“Scott [Merritt] came up big in conditions that were less than perfect for a goaltender. There were a couple of stops he made on hard and low shots that skipped across the wet surface that saved the game for us,” the coach said.
Cuba scored what turned out to be the winning goal late in the second half on a rocket of a free kick he tucked just underneath the cross bar just to the right of Whalers keeper Russell Bartlett, who finished the game with 10 saves.
The Whalers later scored on a penalty kick to cut the lead to 2-1, but the Vineyarders held on for the win.
Earlier in the week, the Vineyarders beat Bourne at home 2-0 and overcame an early deficit at Falmouth to win 3-1. Cuba, who has shifted between keeper and forward all season, started the game in net before he was replaced by Merritt in the second half. Cuba provided instant offense after coming out of goal, notching two assists, one on a score by J.P. Oliveira and another on a score by Filipe Freitas as the Vineyarders won 3-1.
For a team short on senior leadership, Cuba’s enthusiasm and versatility has anchored the team, the coach said.
“He’s just a chatterbox, he has so much energy and love for the game. But he is also a talented player — he strikes the ball harder than anyone on the team and he can play just about any position,” coach Hammond said.
The team next plays at home against Fairhaven on Monday at 3:30 p.m.
The golf team dropped a close match against Old Rochester at home Monday before bouncing back with a win against Sturgis on Wednesday to up their record to 5-2 three weeks into the season.
“I guess we’re right around where we need to be,” said coach Doug DeBettencourt. “We’ve beat five teams rather handily and we lose two close matches, both of which we could have won. The good thing is that I don’t think we’ve played our best yet.”
Tony Grillo and Luke Pisano were co-medalists in the win against Sturgis; and so far this season Grillo — the two- time Massachusetts Junior Champion — has yet to lose a match. Newcomer Sam Scott, usually slotted as the team’s number five golfer, has the second lowest point total on the team, having lost only one match all season.