With its strong history of winning records and qualifying for the state tournament nearly every year, the boys’ tennis team is a perenniel standout.
And this year the team under longtime coach Ned Fennessey is having perhaps its strongest season ever, winning the league title in their first year in the Eastern Athletic Conference with a remarkable record of 12-2 overall and a perfect 7-0 in their league.
The team has already qualified for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament, and last weekend four members advanced to the next round of the state tournament for individual players.
At the MIAA south sectionals held in Barnstable, the Vineyard’s number one singles player Reid Yennie defeated Matt Boland of Bishop Feehan to advance to the semifinals, while the team’s number two singles player Kent Leonard defeated Dave Pinsonneault of Bishop Feehan in straight sets also to advance.
Meanwhile the Vineyard doubles team of Win Grimm and Justice Yennie defeated Scott Curry and Mike Moore from Falmouth to advance to the finals. The victory is noteworthy not only because the Vineyard duo was unseeded and defeated a number two seed, but also because this was only the second time Grimm and Yennie had played together.
The individual tournament continues tomorrow in Barnstable.
The even-tempered Coach Fennessey this week couldn’t help but show his pride in his team. It’s the first official year in the Eastern Athletic Conference, and most other Vineyard teams are struggling. The tennis team also unofficially won the conference last year, going 7-1, but that was before they were formally members.
And as usual, the coach gave all the credit to his players. Two of the top performers — Kent Leonard and Justice Yennie — are only freshman, but already are making huge contributions.
“You don’t see that often, kids that young doing so much for the team. It says a lot about their maturity. Regardless of how we do the rest of this year, I think the future is bright for this team,” Mr. Fennesey said.
He lauded his team for its resiliency. The team lost one player for the whole season due to academic issues, and several others had to miss matches because of injury, sickness or vacations. As a result, some players, especially Justice Yennie, had to shift to play at singles and doubles, often with unfamiliar partners.
“Justice has been kind of a jack of all trades for this team; most recently I paired him with cocaptain Win Grimm at number one doubles against Coyle Cassidy, and they don’t play together much. But they still won . . . which is impressive. Sometimes you put players together and it just doesn’t work at all. But they played together just fine,” Coach Fennessey said.
This past week the team defeated three strong teams on the road: Coyle Cassidy on Wednesday, led by Leonard, who won in straight sets (6-2, 6-1) and Reid Yennie, who got pushed to three sets before winning (6-1, 5-7, 6-1); then Bishop Feehan on Monday, led by singles players Reid Yennie, Leonard, and Grimm, who all won their matches relatively easily. Both Vineyards doubles teams lost.
Last Wednesday the team defeated Bishop Stang, with all the singles and doubles players winning in straight sets.
So far the strength of the team has been in singles play. Reid Yennie (brother of Justice) is 10-3, and lost only to Sandwich’s number one player twice and Cape Cod Academy’s number one once. Leonard is 12-1 at singles, with his only loss to another strong player from Cape Cod Academy.
Coach Fennessey cautioned that the road gets tougher ahead.
“We do very well in our area, and that alone is something to be proud of, because there are some strong programs [on the Cape]. But once you get up to the quarter finals and semifinals, you run into the top competitors, not only on the Cape but the whole south section . . . the water gets deep pretty quickly,” he said.
But whatever the final outcome of the season, the coach is proud of his team.
“I can’t say enough about this team. In their own way they are the most accomplished teams I have been around, and I have been doing this for 20 years,” he said. “We don’t get big crowds, and I don’t think a lot of people know what the team is doing. So for this team, winning is its own reward. Thankfully we are doing a lot of winning.”
The girls continued their winning ways this week, adding wins over Barnstable and Pembroke to run their record to 10-3 overall and 8-0 in the Maritime League. Last Thursday they came out flying against Barnstable, taking a 5-0 lead only 10 minutes into the game.
But the Red Raiders fought back and tied the game at 6-6 before the Vineyard regrouped to take an 11-6 lead going into the break. In the second half the Vineyard built the lead en route to a 19-8 win. April Hargy had nine key saves in goal, while Kate Cecilio led the offense with five goals and one assist. Alayna Hutchinson had three goals and three assists; Molly Fischer had three goals and two assists; Hayley Pierce had three goals and five assists, and Madison Hughes had a goal with two assists.
On Saturday the girls played Pembroke in a nonleague game and dominated from the start, as 12 different players scored in a lopsided 20-3 win. Scoring for the first time this season were defensemen Lonni Phillips, Genevieve Hammond and Olivia Gross, along with sophomore Ana Irwin.
Molly Fischer won every draw, and played offense and defense. She was high scorer with five goals and four assists. Hughes had three goals and two assists; freshman Jennie Lindland had two goals and four assists while Pierce had two goals and two assists.
The team plays Pembroke on the road Monday. The junior varsity team will play Cape Cod Academy at home Tuesday. Varsity and junior varsity will play on the road on Thursday against league rival Bishop Stang.
The team defeated Pembroke at home on Saturday 10-5, improving their record to 8-5 and taking one step closer to the state tournament. Chris Costello scored 90 seconds into the first quarter, followed by Colby Gouldrup to take an early 2-0 lead.
Pembroke scored two in the second quarter to tie the score, but Erik Dolliver answered 20 seconds later to again put the Vineyards ahead. The home team made it 6-3 at the half, and tacked on four more goals in the second for the comfortable win.
Coach Chris Greene credited goalie Nelson Dickson.
“He’s been really strong for us, he seems to improve every game,” he said.
The coach said his team has struggled at times, but is starting to find its scoring touch.
“We’ve had lots of injures — as many as five players down at a time — which has created problems every time we play up to a stronger opponent. We are winning the games we are supposed to, but struggling in games against teams with a lot of talent. But I think we are putting things together now late in the season, just at the right time,” he said.
The team has five games left in the season, and needs one more win to qualify for the state tournament.