Although persistent drizzle made the playing field slippery on Wednesday, the undefeated Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School girls’ lacrosse team had no problems finding their footing, easily defeating lower-seeded Oliver Ames in the Division II sectionals of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament to advance to the next round.
The number-one seeded Vineyarders shook off a slow start and an early deficit to defeat the 17th-seeded Oliver Ames by a score of 8-3 to improve to 19-0 on the season. They will now host number-nine seed Hingham today at the high school athletic field.
Coach Betsy Dripps said she was pleased with her team’s effort Wednesday, but noted the road from here does not get any easier.
“They were fired up [on Wednesday] . . . but we’re going to have to play every minute to compete with [Hingham],” she said.
Hayley Pierce led the Vineyarders with three goals while Sophie Lew and Laura Jernegan made two goals each. Kate Cecilio also scored, while Molly Fischer had two assists and won every draw for the Vineyarders. Cristina Wiley and Brianna Davies each had an assist in the win.
The juggernaut Vineyarders fell behind 1-0 in the opening minutes, a rarity for a team that won all their games by a two-to-one margin and rarely had to play from behind. But the home team would not be denied on this day, and reeled off three consecutive goals from Lew, Cecilio and Pierce over a five-minute span to take a 3-1 advantage.
A sparse crowd at the start of the game steadily grew to around 100 fans, who braved cold and damp conditions and intermittent drizzle. There was some early drama as Oliver Ames coach Mike Darling disputed a referee’s call, forcing a brief stoppage of play. Later, the coach demanded to see Vineyard athletic director Mike Joyce to lodge a complaint about chatter from the fans.
It was an especially physical game on the field, but that was largely due to the slippery conditions that led several players to fall and collide with one another. The Tigers made things interesting with about five minutes to play in the first half, when Megan Andrews fired one past Vineyard goalie Zoe Fisher to make it 3-2.
From the sidelines, Dripps bumped up the emotion.
“You’ve got to move the ball Vineyard! Shut down those passing lanes. Mark up!” the coach shouted.
Pierce soon after widened the Vineyard lead to 4-2 on an assist from Cecilio, and the home team would take that score into the break. In the opening minutes of the second frame, it appeared as if the Tigers scored to cut the lead to 4-3, but the goal was called off because the player was in the crease.
The style of play from both teams was markedly different.
The Tigers methodically ran their offense from behind the Vineyarders’ cage, as one of their players would hold the ball sometimes for minutes waiting for a teammate to break free. The Vineyarders, on the other hand, consistently pushed the ball down the field, and when they went to a set offense would pass the ball at a frenetic pace, which clearly confused the Tiger’s defense.
This style helped created a goal at the 21:31 mark, when Lew emerged from a scrum in front of the cage to fire one past goalie Meredith Kallfetz to make it 5-2. The Tigers scored soon after to cut the lead to 5-3, and the score would stay there for the better part of the half.
It wasn’t until the 5:41 mark that Piece took a picture-perfect assist from Molly Fischer to make it 6-3.
It was then Jernegan’s turn, who aggressively charged the Tiger’s cage for a pair of goals at the 5:01 mark and the 4:03 mark, to make it 8-3 and put the game on ice. The game got a little chippy in the closing minutes, but by this point the field was a slippery mud pit.
The game was paused with about two minutes left when Kallfetz fell hard to the ground, and her teammates watched anxiously as she gingerly righted herself.
Despite the loss, Kallfetz has a stellar game with 14 saves, some of which were hard to fathom. On several occasions, the Vineyard faithful were left scratching their heads when Kallfetz made a spectacular save, and the Vineyard clearly could have won by double-digits if not for her strong play in the cage.
After the final whistle blew, her teammates charged the field as if they had won the game, and headed towards Kallfetz, giving her hugs and congratulations on a game well played. Meanwhile, the Vineyarders’ goalie was equally impressive, as Zoe Fisher made 10 saves, including a pair of circus-style stops late in the second half.
Today’s matchup at home against Hingham is at 3:30 p.m.
The Harbormen went 15-6 on the season and defeated number-eight seed Walpole earlier in the week to advance. They are from the highly competitive Patriot League, which includes perennial power Duxbury, the number-two seed in Division II.