The 2011-12 sports season started as those before it have, with a week of pre-dawn preseason workouts in August for the fall teams. It ended last weekend as no other had: with a state championship title for the 23-0 boys’ tennis team, the first state title for the school in the sport, and the first in any sport since 2002.
The tennis team’s run capped a year exceptional by the standards of any school, during which 13 of the 18 varsity programs advanced to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association postseason tournament, with one (girls’ hockey) making its first-ever appearance. And for those sports that don’t compete in playoffs but rather participate in end-of-season races—cross country, track and field, sailing—the success continued, highlighting the teams and individuals alike.
Alongside the concrete achievements, however, are the intangibles of the past season—the unsung heroes, the moral victories, the moments of leadership, and the simple joys of team camaraderie. In discussing their respective seasons with the Gazette earlier this week, coaches from various programs shared this sentiment.
The best game of the girls’ soccer season, coach Richard Bennett said, was a loss. The Vineyarders took on undefeated Nantucket and played the Whalers to a 1-1 tie in the first half before falling 2-1. “Even though we didn’t win, it was a really well-played match” where the team came together and clicked as a whole, said Coach Bennett.
In any sport, the click is crucial.
“Part of the success was the group of kids,” boys’ basketball coach Mike Joyce said of his team’s 19-3 record going into the state semifinals. “There was a good vibe, a good connection, [and] that chemistry, if you get it going, is huge.
“I think the feel of the team, for the kids and the coaching staff, is the thing that stands out most to me,” he continued.
“We tried to focus on team concepts from day one, and have everybody support everybody from day one,” baseball coach Gary Simmons said. The baseball team made its first postseason appearance in 10 years this season.
“It’s tough for kids with only 10 in the lineup,” coach Simmons said. “Not everybody got a chance to play every day, but I think a good framework was in place for everybody to contribute.
“It was a wonderful group of kids to work with,” he continued, praising the leadership abilities of the seniors on the team. He noted how the older players motivated the squad throughout the season—“aspects where coaches usually have to step in and lead, but we didn’t have to do that...it was nice to see that come from [the players].”
Even in sports that do focus more on the individual than the team, athlete leadership stood out. Senior track and field captains Tyler Araujo and Rafael Maciel were “invaluable to our program and our coaches,” head coach Joe Schroder said. The duo—both were multi-sport captains, with Maciel on the soccer team and Araujo captaining all three seasons, with football and hockey also on his resume—were “leaders and teachers,” said coach Schroeder. “Tyler and Rafael were two of the best captains I’ve ever had.”
Araujo’s winter coach, Matt Mincone, described the hockey team’s season as part of “an exceptional year, with everyone being on the same page...everyone committed for the kids and the kids committed for the team.”
“I think hockey took a step forward this year,” he said. “The whole program from the booster club to the players to the parents, to the grades they got in school, everything notched up a little bit.”
Field hockey coach Lisa Knight spoke of watching her team grow over the course of a season, even as they were challenged by Division 1 schools. The girls defeated Falmouth 1-0 early in the season, and impressed coach Knight most with their play against Barnstable. After the Vineyarders lost 7-0 to the Red Raiders at the beginning of the fall, they played to a 1-1 tie in the second-to-last game of the season. Barnstable scored with 23 seconds left in the game, but that wasn’t what mattered.
“The team went deep against Barnstable,” coach Knight said with a note of pride. “That shows what we’re all about.”
“You know that the future looks pretty darn good for the next few years.”