A little sun, a little rain, temperatures hovering in the upper 40s and the wind blowing hard — it was perfect weather for the opening weekend of Vineyard Youth Soccer’s little-heralded, largely-accomplished and newly expanded travel program on the fields at the West Tisbury School.

The Island’s travel soccer teams kicked off the first round of the season with home openers against several teams from the South Coast Soccer League on Saturday.

“We’ve added three new teams this year, building on what has been a really successful program,” said Trip Wadleigh, Martha’s Vineyard Youth Soccer president.

In recent years the Vineyard’s travel soccer program has built a strong reputation across Cape Cod and the state. Three of the five Island teams advanced to the state championships last spring. The Vineyard’s Under-11 boys, Under-15 boys and under-18 boys teams were the champions for their age groups in the South Coast soccer League and therefore contestants in the statewide Massachusetts Tournament of Champions. The under-11 team extended their winning streak to the final game before losing the state championship to Cambridge.

“The travel program is an opportunity for kids interested in playing somewhat more competitive soccer than our on-Island recreation league,” said Matt Poole, who co-coaches this year’s under-12 boys team (along with Esteban Aranzabe) and has organized the travel component of Vineyard Youth Soccer for the past five years. “There’s a lot of interest right now — we have more teams this year than we’ve had in quite some time.”

Alex Gordon
Alex Gordon Beck deftly gains control of the ball. — Jaxon White

The under-12 boys (last year’s under-11 champs) opened the new season in top form with a 5-0 victory against Dighton-Rehoboth on Saturday.

“The boys played a very good game, with lots of passing,” said Mr. Aranzabe. “They looked better than at the beginning of last year.”

Mr. Poole and Mr. Aranzabe have coached Island soccer teams together for the past six years. “The level of play has gone up in that time,” Mr. Aranzabe said. “But we can always use new coaches who really know the game.”

The newly formed under-13 girls team lost 5-0 to Barnstable in their first game. “The Barnstable team was well organized,” said coach Andrew Warlock. “They knew how to capitalize when they had possession. That team has been playing together since they were seven and this was our team’s first competitive game. The players on the Vineyard’s under-13 team have a lot of drive, but it’ll just take us time to practice.”

Mr. Warlock also coaches the boys under-16 team — one team for his son and one for his daughter. The under-16 boys defeated Oceana 2-1 in a game that the coach said shouldn’t have been that close. “We were missing a couple of our key players, so the team had to work a lot harder,” he said.

Amy Houghton and Bill Howell co-coach the new girls under-11 team which took a 3-2 loss to Dighton-Rehoboth. “The girls played very well,” Ms. Houghton said. “Our biggest problem was that we were short two players. We didn’t have any subs, so the players got pretty tired.”

Yannick Gonsalves flies as he escorts the ball up-field. — Jaxon White

Ms. Houghton has coached soccer off-Island in the past, and this is her third year coaching on the Vineyard. “We’re always looking for more girls to play soccer,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to see how great it is to be part of a team.”

Phil Dwane has been coaching youth soccer on Martha’s Vineyard for 14 years — in the on-Island recreational league, the travel program and at the high school. He has three sons playing in the travel league this year, and he coaches both the boys’ under-14 and the boys’ under-18 teams. The current under-18 team won the state championship for their age group two years ago.

“Both of these teams got off to a great start this year,” Mr. Dwane said. “I’m very encouraged. We’ve got a lot of strong players who grew up playing in the Island’s soccer program. I’ve got 18-year-olds on my team that I first coached when they were in kindergarten playing mini-kickers.”

The under-14 boys beat Swansea-Somerset 5-0 and the under-18 boys defeated Falmouth 6-2.

The youngest new team, the boys’ under-10 coached by David Wallis, took a 3-1 victory over Swansea Somerset. “This was our first game together as a team, and the boys were thrilled to be out there playing,” Coach Wallis said. “We have a lot of talented players, and we’ll just have to see where we can take it from here.”

The girls under-16 team’s game against Dartmouth was postponed due to rain.

Matt Poole
Matt Poole co-coaches with Esteban aranzabe. — Jaxon White

“The Island’s soccer program has been quite successful,” Coach Poole said, “and we can expand it as interest increases. We’re always looking for new young families to join.”

Vineyard Youth Soccer’s Web site, mvsoccer.org, has information for anyone interested in watching a game, volunteering as a coach or signing up for this year’s recreational program made up of kindergarten through 10-year-old Island players. At press time there was space available on the following teams: under-11 Girls, under-13 Girls, under-16 Girls and under-18 Boys.