There aren’t many opportunities in life to achieve the elusive standard of perfection. And some people spend their whole lives trying. But as a wise man once said, “When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.”
Well, the 2009 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School girl’s lacrosse team is certainly moving, and moving toward perfection. As the regular season came to a close this week the high-flying Vineyard girls’ record stood at a perfect 18-0. They have secured a number one seed in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association South Division 2 tournament, along with home field advantage. The first game will be either next Tuesday or Wednesday; brackets were still incomplete at press time.
It is the best season in the history of girls’ lacrosse, and Vineyard coach Betsy Dripps knows that striving for perfection can be overwhelming to her players. But she also noted this is a team with both talent and heart.
“We have talented players, strong players . . . but we also have a great team here . . . everyone plays together and does what needs to be done for the good of the team,” the coach said in an interview this week. “I am proud of what they have accomplished, they are a special group.”
Coach Dripps has had a long and successful run herself. She first introduced girls’ lacrosse to the Island 13 years ago when she moved here year-round from Philadelphia and started the program at the high school. Her team has consistently posted winning records and qualified for the state tournament several times.
But this is her first undefeated team in her 28 years of coaching, and the first ever undefeated Vineyard lacrosse team. It is also a deep and talented squad, with six strong seniors and a nimble ensemble of underclassmen backed up by a strong junior varsity team that went 10-2-2 this season.
So the future is bright for girls’ lacrosse, even though the team will change dramatically when the six seniors graduate in June. But there is a clear understanding among players and coaches that the time is now. “Many of these seniors have played together since the ninth grade; this is what they have worked for . . . everything has come together this year,” Coach Dripps said.
At Monday’s game against Bridgewater-Raynham, the final home game of the season, the girls were in a merry mood before the whistle blew.
For starters it was senior day, and parents of the six seniors were on hand to receive bouquets of flowers and celebrate.
Those honored included twin sisters Zoe and Alexa Fisher, Cristina Wiley, Sophie Lew, Ana Cristina Jurczyk and Laura Jernegan. The mood was giddy as players excitedly stole glances at a cake, and there was laughter and smiles all around as the players had their sticks checked by referees.
But they were suddenly all business once the ball dropped.
And Coach Dripps was all coach. “Take care of the ball girls! Don’t be sloppy! Will someone get into their shooting space?! Mark up!” she shouted.
The girls responded, taking their first lead 72 seconds into the game on a goal by Hayley Pierce with an assist from Jernegan. Then Bridgewater-Raynham tied the game. But the Vineyard girls didn’t like being shown up at home, especially on senior day.
Two minutes later, Jernegan scored, followed by Lew and Jurczyk. A rout was on.
Coach Dripps took nothing for granted, continuing to direct her players from the sidelines. Toward the end of the second half Jurczyk rushed the cage from a wide angle and made an almost impossible shot in the lower corner of the net.
At first Coach Dripps was skeptical, advising her player to pass! But as every group leader knows, sometimes independent decisions must be allowed. Coach Dripps thrust her arms skyward. “Nice shot Anna!” she shouted with equal parts affection and wonder.
“I don’t know how she made that,” she said quietly along the sidelines. “She had no angle.”
The girls led 12-2 at the half, en route to an easy 18-5 win. The lopsided score allowed the coach to empty her bench in the second half. Now watching from the sidelines, the veteran seniors cheered on their younger teammates.
Clearly these players look out for each other, and not just in the passing lanes.
“It’s a team concept, they all root for each other,” said Debbie Jernegan, parent of Laura Jernegan, who sat at the scorers’ table during the game tallying goals and assists. “My daughter gets off the field after each game, and she really doesn’t know how many goals she scored, she is focused on playing the game in the moment and winning.”
Jernegan was leading the team with 58 goals and 15 assists at the start of Monday’s game.
After the game, some varsity players stuck around to watch the junior varsity team play, while others drifted off in groups, chatting in the parking lot before heading home. Asked about the pursuit of perfection, Wiley responded: “We’re in it to win it.”
Sophie Lew acknowledged the pressure. “But we don’t worry about a perfect season too much; we worry about playing the perfect game that day,” she said.
“As long as we work hard, everything will work out,” agreed teammate Zoe Fisher. “What we have done amazes me, but we know we still have games to play . . . the season’s not over yet.”