Hell week has earned its name this year for fall sports teams at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. In the week leading up to Labor Day, hundreds of student athletes have endured two-a-day practices, early morning start times and heat indexes over 90 degrees as they get ready for the fall season.

Teams are also preparing for a host of new opponents as the athletic program moves from the Eastern Athletic Conference, its home for seven years, to the 10-team Cape and Islands League.

Last season, the golf, boys soccer and field hockey teams made it into the postseason, but no team came home with a championship. Athletic director Mark McCarthy said he thinks that’s set to change this season due to the move, placing the Vineyarders with more evenly matched opponents.

“The new schools are more our size and demographic,” he said. “We anticipate the move will give us lots of success.”

All games, matches and races take place at the high school athletic fields (except golf), and are free for spectators until tournament play. Golf rounds are played at the Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown.

Cross Country

Mark Alan Lovewell

Hell week means shaking off the summer and getting into a running routine, according to coach Joe Schroeder, who’s led the program for 30 years. He said that routine means gathering at the high school track at daybreak for a series of stretches and a jog through a variety of Island locales, from trails to the beach.

“The tradition has been always during Hell Week for us to practice early in the morning,” said Mr. Schroeder. “It serves a couple of different purposes. Number one, the temperature is a little bit cooler. Number two, it gets kids into a routine for school.”

Mr. Schroeder said this year’s 32-member team is made up of mostly sophomores and juniors, though he pointed to a wealth of talented freshmen. Last year, junior Peter Burke made the state finals and was the 10th best runner in his division. Catherine Cherry was just a few spots away from the state finals last year, finishing up at 12th in the division.

The first day of school also marks the first day of competition for the cross country team, who will host Monomoy Regional High School on Tuesday. The 12th annual Vineyard Invitational is set for the following Saturday where an estimated 25 teams of nearly 900 runners will converge for a race through the state forest.

A week out, Mr. Schroeder said the goal is to get the alarm clocks set and legs moving every morning leading up to the first race, especially for those who did more beach lounging than training over the summer.

“We’re just trying to find out where everybody is fitness-wise,” he said. “I hope that walking out of here when Hell Week is finished, the kids will have a lot of confidence in what they’ve accomplished.”

Field Hockey

It’s the final season for field hockey coach Lisa Knight, who has led the team into the postseason in every one of her 31 years as coach, including an appearance in the 2000 state championship. This year promises to be no different with 58 girls and one boy signed up competing for 11 spots on the starting roster.

Mark Alan Lovewell

“I think our season bodes very well,” she said. “It depends on them though. I can only blow the whistle and put the players in the game.”

Ms. Knight’s team has the earliest practice time of the six fall teams, hitting the fields at 5:45 a.m. Last season, the team advanced to the south sectional quarterfinals with a 13-6-1 record, led by returning seniors Mackenzie Condon, Abby Marchand, Addy Hayman and Meghan Sonia.

Ms. Knight attributed the program’s success to the camaraderie of the tight-knit group who call each other not just teammates, but friends. She added that the junior varsity and varsity teams practice together for an hour before splitting up. They also attend each other’s games to offer support.

“For me, it’s a team effort. We roll as one big family,” she said. “They become a family before school even starts. They all walk to school on that first day with field hockey sticks.”

The Vineyarders face Sturgis West Charter School in the first home match of the season on Monday, Sept. 10 at 4 p.m.

Girls Soccer

Coach Rocco Bellebuono’s team of 42 girls is the first to rack up a win this season, or rather, preseason. The squad gave an impressive performance in a scrimmage against a summer league team of women Monday with a 2-1 win. Mr. Bellebuono said that after a weekend full of practices, he was proud to see the team still fired up and eager to get better.

“We trained on Thursday, we trained on Friday and we did a double session on Saturday,” he said. “I think that most of them could barely walk yesterday, but they’re here today because they love this part of the season.”

Mr. Bellebuono, who said he started playing soccer when he was five years old, is now in his fifth year of coaching the girls soccer team. Though his past teams were unable to find much success in the EAC, he said a new league with new opponents could lead to a more positive result. The team is led by senior captain Alexis Condon, and seniors Erin DeBettencourt and Nattiely Dias.

Whatever the record at the end of the season, Mr. Bellebuono said he hopes to instill a passion for the game and that the girls build strong friendships with their teammates.

“I hope they have a little bit of pride in who they are and what they achieve,” he said. “I’d like for them to take that away with a sense of accomplishment.”

The team plays St. John Paul II High School on Wednesday at home at 4:15 p.m.

Boys Soccer

A heartbreaking loss in the first round of the MIAA division three South Sectionals last year against Scituate ended the Vineyarders 11-6-2 season on a disappointing note, despite winning the league in regular season play.

Five-year boys soccer coach Esteban Aranzabe hopes to change that tune this year with a team of 54 players, the majority of them freshmen. Hell week training, he said, is the first step to getting the new talent game-ready.

Mark Alan Lovewell

“Some people call it hell week, but we just call it conditioning,” he said. “It’s hell week not just for the heat but because they didn’t do anything during the summer, so they suffer a little bit.”

Mr. Aranzabe said the players to look out for this season are a pair of freshmen goalies Gabriel Brito and Hiaggo Goncalves and junior forward Emmanuel Da Silva, the team’s top goal scorer last year. He added that what he wants to see most in his players this season is respect, commitment and good sportsmanship, no matter the final result.

“Everybody likes to win but we care about the way that we win,” he said. “Fans should be watching for good soccer and good teamwork, and we’re going to try to go farther than we did last year.”

A home match against Cape Cod Regional Tech is set for Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 4:15 p.m.


Hell week may be less grueling out on the links, said golf coach Doug DeBettencourt, but still crucial for getting his 10 players back into the swing of things.

“For the golf team, our hell week is playing nine holes around 3 o’clock,” he said. “There really isn’t a hell week but I need to see where the kids are at, who’s played a lot over the summer and who hasn’t.”

Mr. DeBettencourt’s team is looking to improve over last year’s 12-win season and a fourth-place finish in the state tournament, led by senior co-captains David Krauthammer and Benny Binder.

Mr. DeBettencourt said he’s learned over his 15 years of coaching that the key is to stay patient and not let a bad hole snowball into a bad round. As for expectations, he said he’s anticipating nothing less than a league title and qualifying for the state tournament.

“I think for the kids we have this year, that’s a realistic expectation,” he said.

The golf team faces off against Saint John Paul II High School on Monday, Sept. 10 at 2:45 p.m. at the Farm Neck Golf Club.


Expectations are high for the football team this season with the return of hall of fame coach Don Herman, who racked up nearly 220 wins in his 28 years leading the team.

The challenge, Mr. Herman said, is getting the team into a winning mindset again after the past two seasons that were plagued with injuries and disciplinary issues. He said Hell Week is the first step and he’s taking his cues from the military, with over four hours of drills and pep talks each day.

“We are going to tear them down to build them up and when we build them up, they are going to be different types of athletes,” he said, adding that there will also be pizza at the end of the road for the players who give their best. “I bribe them with food,” he joked.

Mr. Herman said the team has eight games ahead to prove themselves, and he’s confident after what he’s seen in practices that the team will do just that.

Mark Alan Lovewell

“Winning cures a lot of ills,” he said. “I think if we play some exciting football and have some success, I think people will get back into it.”

The opening home football game against Atlantis Charter high school is set for Friday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m.