After a season fractured by illness that forced the cancellation of several practices and games, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School field hockey team had to endure even more adversity last week when they drew Nantucket in the opening round of the MIAA Division II south tournament.
The Vineyarders lost 2-1 in a taut, well-played contest over on the sister island, but the final score does not begin to tell the whole story.
Coach Lisa Knight offered a blunt evaluation of the season.
“It seemed like everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong,” she said. “We got sick earlier in the season, then we got better, then the flu thing hits the school and we’re sick again. We lose a bunch of practices and games, and when we draw Nantucket and have to travel over there . . . it was just unfortunate or unlucky or both.”
Given the fact that all the games between the Vineyard and Nantucket were cancelled this year for financial reasons — including the storied Island Cup football game — it was especially ironic when bracket-makers paired the Island rivals. In short, it was a tough draw.
The season went like this: one game was canceled after Sandwich refused to come to the Island for fear of the flu; another game against Notre Dame Academy was canceled because the Vineyard team was too sick to play; a third game against Seekonk was canceled earlier in the season due to foul weather.
If the Vineyard team had played those games, their record would have been different and they almost certainly would have been seeded differently and drawn a different team than the fifth-seeded Nantucket in the tournament.
Instead, the Vineyard girls, who hadn’t played in a game in almost two weeks because of illness, had to travel to Nantucket last Friday. And unlike previous years when they traveled by plane, there was no money in the school budget this year for air travel.
So the team took the ferry to Woods Hole, then a bus to Hyannis, and then the fast ferry to Nantucket on a blustery day with choppy seas. “It was the worst windy day you could imagine, all the kids were seasick at some point in the trip,” Coach Knight said.
In spite of it all, the Vineyarders made an impressive showing against the higher-seeded Whalers. Nantucket took an early lead on a goal by Kelly Reid, and the Vineyard answered right back with a goal from Kate Cecilio to tie the game 1-1 at the half.
“Once the game started, the girls were amazing. I don’t know where they got their energy from,” the coach said.
The Whalers went up one about six minutes into the second half on a goal by Morgan Tornovish. The Vineyard continued to press for the remainder of the second half, but just couldn’t put across the equalizer.
Coach Knight said she was proud of her team.
“These girls should hold their heads high, because they accomplished something special. They taught me a lot about adversity and perseverance this season, because they easily could have given up on the season and they never did . . . they kept fighting until the end,” she said.
Things have also been tough for the high school football team this year, with cancellations due to flu, not to mention the cancellation of the Island Cup game against Nantucket, still a sore subject with coach Donald Herman.
“I still don’t like to think about it,” he said. “I still can’t seem to accept that the Vineyard isn’t to playing Nantucket this year.”
This is also the first year the Vineyard played in the Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC). But last Friday the team improved its overall record to 5-3 with a 13-7 win over Bishop Stang.
“Our players responded . . . they were sharp right out of the gate,” Coach Herman said.
The Vineyard had both its scores in the second quarter — the first on a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Randall Jette to Josh Baker, and the second on a nine-yard run by Baker. Jette threw for 116 yards and ran for another 89 yards on the ground.
“This has been the season from hell. But all things considered, things could have been a lot worse . . . The players have had to grow up in a hurry this season, and they’ve had to overcome a lot of things that were outside of their control,” the coach said.
The Vineyard plays against South Shore Vocational at Hanover on Saturday; if the weather is bad the game may be postponed to Sunday. The final game of the season is at home on Nov. 21 against Brighton.