The game of lacrosse was the clear focus of the sporting world on the Vineyard this past week as both the boys’ and girls’ high school varsity teams hosted games in the opening round of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament.
Results were mixed, as the number five-seeded girls easily rolled over twelfth-seeded Pembroke by a final of 10-6. Meanwhile, the 16th-seeded boys were upended by 17th-seeded Central Catholic at home after a heartbreaking finish in which the Raiders tied the game with 23 seconds left in regulation and then won in sudden death overtime by a final of 6-5.
The girls team now advances to play at Bourne, either today or tomorrow.
The two state tournament games on the Vineyard were a fitting conclusion to the lacrosse season, as the sport has surged in popularity on the Island in recent years. While home games for the high school games have drawn healthy crowds, a number of instructional league and travel teams are also enjoying unprecedented popularity.
In a game that was tight early but later took a dramatic turn, the girls’ lacrosse team reeled off four unanswered goals on Wednesday in the second half on their way to a tidy 10-6 win over the visiting Titans from Pembroke.
With the win, the Vineyarders advance to the quarterfinal matchup with familiar Maritime League foe Bourne.
The Vineyarders split a pair of regular season games against the Canalmen, easily defeating them at home early in the season before losing in the final seconds in Bourne.
Coach Betsy Dripps said her team played one of their better games of the season against the Titans Wednesday.
“Everyone contributed, from our middies [mid-fielders] to our goalies to our attack men,” the coach said on the high school athletic field following the win. “I told these girls it was too nice today to lose; the sun is shining, the weather is warm and the crowd is excited. I think the message reached them, because they came to play today.”
The two teams went back and forth in the first half and were knotted at three goals apiece in the closing seconds of the frame. But Laura Jernegan, the team’s leading scorer and Maritime League player of the year, flipped one past the Titan’s goalie just before the break to give the Vineyarders a one-goal advantage.
Pembroke came out firing in the second half and tied the game at four-all, but the Vineyarders responded when freshman Molly Fischer, in perhaps her best game of the season, fired one in from five feet out to put the home team back up by a score of 5-4.
Jernegan would add another goal minutes later, followed by a score by Sophie Lew to make it 7-4. Although the Titans scored two goals late, it was not nearly enough as the Vineyarders piled on three goals for a final score of 10-6. Jernegan led the Vineyarders with four goals while Fischer had two goals and an assist. Lew added two goals, while Jane Alexander and Cristina Wiley each pitched in with a goal.
Goalie Zoe Fisher was superb in the cage with seven saves, while Wiley and Kate Cecilio were strong in the mid-field. Coach Dripps said that win or lose against Bourne this weekend, her girls have had a season to be proud of. “I love this team’s enthusiasm. They love to play lacrosse and they love playing as a team. They have been a pleasure to coach,” she said.
Generally speaking, boys’ varsity lacrosse coach John Stabile is an upbeat person. Although he may be volatile during games, he is almost always positive off the field. But after Tuesday’s 6-5 loss at home against Central Catholic, the usually sunny coach had trouble shaking off the gloom.
“This was a game we were supposed to win, and should have won,” he said after the loss that bounced the Vineyarders from the state tournament and ended their season. “This is a great bunch of players and a good team, but this was one of the more frustrating games I have been ever involved with.”
Although the coach was reluctant to single out individual players, he conceded that several bad plays sealed the Vineyard’s fate. One play was an open shot on the Raiders goal in the first half that would have tied the game, when a Vineyard player inexplicably attempted a showy behind-the-back goal and missed; and the other was his team’s inability to run out the clock with the lead in the closing seconds.
“I give credit to the other team, they played well. But there were times in the game in which our players just didn’t show up. Clearly, there were situations we should have capitalized on,” Coach Stabile said.
After the Raiders jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, the Vineyarders rallied to tie both at 2-2 and then again at 4-4. With several minutes left in regulation play, the Vineyarders took their first lead of the game when Mike O’Donoghue scored with only 1:16 left on the clock. Victory was at hand — or so it seemed.
But with less than a minute left to play and the Vineyarders holding the ball, the wheels came off. Playing out of a four-corner offense, the home team was trying to run out the clock to seal the win but accidentally crossed the ball into the Raider’s offensive box, which required them to take a shot on goal. This led to a turnover and a streaking Raiders player tying the game with a little over 20 seconds left in regulation play.
The Vineyarders still appeared rattled when the game went to sudden death overtime; they lost when the Raiders scored with just over 1:30 left in overtime.
Following a season in which the Vineyarders went 14-4, the loss at home was especially wrenching. “This game was right there for the taking, we had it in our hands. But you live and you learn, and you move on to next season,” Coach Stabile said.