Although the regular spring sports season for high school athletics is inching to a close, several teams will be starting a second season this week when they play in the opening round of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament.
Both the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams have already qualified for the tournament, while the boys’ tennis team must win one of its last two matches to advance to the postseason. Meanwhile, both the boys’ and girls’ track and field teams continued their tradition of excellence as both won their respective Mayflower League meets last week in Kingston.
It was the third straight conference title for the girls, and the eighth straight title for the boys. In the process, several individual athletes qualified for the state tournament scheduled for later this month.
The boys’ lacrosse team won three games this week to run their record to 13-3, which most likely puts them in line for a mid-range seed when the state tournament begins next week. Coach John Stabile said the brackets will be announced sometime next week, and speculated the Vineyarders’ record was strong enough to earn a home game in the opening round, most likely to take place next weekend or the following week.
The coach said his team is playing its best lacrosse of the season, evidenced by last Friday’s solid win over inter-Island rival Nantucket. Although the Whalers did not qualify for the state tournament this year, coach Stabile said they are still a strong opponent that plays with the same tenacity as the Vineyarders.
Although last week’s game was on Nantucket — played as usual before a rabid army of Whalers fans — the Vineyarders still managed to jump out to a 3-0 lead early. But in the blink of an eye, the Whalers scored four unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead, a surge that may have caught the visiting Vineyarders by surprise.
“It happened so quickly, I think some of our players eased up a bit after we had the big lead. But I liked the way we responded after [falling behind]. The players bit down and put together a comeback of their own,” coach Stabile said.
The Vineyarders regained the lead by halftime en route to an impressive 13-8 win. Mike O’Donoghue led the team with four goals and three assists while Kenny MacDonald notched a hat trick. Both Duncan Meyst and Riley Dobel scored twice, while Matt Flynn and Matt Costello each had goals.
The coach said the match-up against the Whalers was a great tune-up for the postseason.
“I think both [the Vineyard and Nantucket] play their best lacrosse during these games . . . they just ratchet up the emotion. This was a good test for us,” he said.
The Vineyarders faced another big test the very next day. After returning to the Vineyard by plane late Friday evening, they took an early-morning boat to play at Medford. Once again, they fell behind early and trailed 4-2 late in the fourth quarter. But as they have done all season, the Vineyarders stormed back to tie the game before taking the lead on the way to a tight 6-5 win.
Daron Stobie, Kenny MacDonald, Michael O’Donoghue and Mike Dolliver each had goals in the win.
The Vineyarders enjoyed an easier win at home against Dartmouth on Monday, winning by a final score of 8-0.
For the first time ever, the girls’ varsity lacrosse team is champion of the Maritime League.
On the strength of two wins this week over Dartmouth and New Bedford, the Vineyarders earned the crown with a record of 11-1 in the league and 11-4 overall. Like the boys’ team, the girls are expected to earn a mid-seed and play a home game in the opening round of the state tournament. The brackets will be announced this week, and the Vineyarders will likely play their first game on the tourney next weekend or early next week.
The girls have been members of the Maritime League for four years, but lost the conference title to Dartmouth their first two years and Bourne last year. But this year, coach Betsy Dripps proudly points out, it was the Vineyarders’ turn to take it all.
“We had an incredible team this year; a group of determined and skilled players who loved the game. I am so proud of these girls,” the coach said.
It was also a return to form this year for the Vineyarders, who bounced back after missing the state tournament last year for the first time since coach Dripps started the program 13 years ago.
The Vineyarders clinched at least a share of the Maritime League title Monday with a win over a very fast and skilled Dartmouth team. The Vineyarders had beaten them earlier in the season, but by only a single goal, and had to rally from a three-goal deficit with less than eight minutes in that game to play to seal the win.
Coach Dripps said Monday’s game was a different story, as seemingly every one of her players had their best game of the season. “Everyone contributed . . . their execution was almost perfect,” she said.
The Vineyarders rebounded from an early two-goal deficit when Molly Fischer and Laura Jernegan had goals within a four-minute span to tie the game. After Dartmouth went back up, sophomore Hayley Pierce scored on a rebound off the Dartmouth goalie followed by another goal from Fischer and then Pierce.
The Vineyarders held a 7-4 advantage at the half, and in the second half Jane Alexander and Laura Jernegan scored back to back on the way to the 13-9 win. Junior goalie Zoe Fisher had an excellent game with 11 key saves, many of those from free positions in front of the net.
The Vineyarders finally wrapped up the title during the last game of the regular season at home and in the rain against New Bedford on Tuesday. Although it was a sloppy game, the Vineyard managed to find their rhythm early and jumped out to 2-0 lead in the first quarter. Senior Nica Sylvia had the first goal of the game at the 13:56 mark, followed by a key interception from defenseman Kate Cecilio, who went down the field to score less than a minute later.
The Vineyarders would eventually roll to a 10-5 win and walk off the wet field as Maritime League champions.
“It was a perfect close to an almost perfect regular season. We battled hard all year and we earned that title,” coach Dripps said.
Also this week, four Vineyard players were named to the Maritime League All Star first team: Laura Jernegan, Zoe Fisher, Jane Alexander and Cristina Wiley. Goalie Zoe Fisher was also awarded the individual Maritime League Sportsmanship Award for the Vineyard team. Laura Jernegan, the team’s high scorer for the past two years ,was named to the second team Boston Globe All Scholastic, which is quite an honor.
The boys’ tennis team needs to win one of its final two matches this week to qualify for a berth in the state tournament. They play Sandwich on the road today before facing Old Rochester at home tomorrow.
On Wednesday, the Vineyarders hosted Falmouth, last year’s Division I state champions, who came in with an impressive 10-1 record on the season. The powerhouse visitors won all three singles matches and the first doubles match in straight sets, although there was surprise during the second doubles match, when co-captains Seth Seeman and Daniel Han upset Josh Fishbein and Brendon Egan by the slimmest of margins, 7-5 and 7-6.
Earlier in the week, the Vineyarders easily handled Mashpee even without their number one singles player Andrew McHugh, cruising to a 5-0 straight sets win. Dylan Hutchinson, filling in as the number one singles player in McHugh’s absence, won by a 6-1 margin.
With one loss and one win the past week, the Vineyarders evened their record at 7-7, and will need one more win to guarantee a .500 record on the season and secure a berth in the state tournament.