The Vineyard yet again has several youth soccer teams excelling in the post-season, as the under-12 team heads to league finals, the under 14-team heads to semifinals and the under-16 team has already qualified for the Massachusetts Tournament of Champions (MTOC).
The tournament is a season-ending match sponsored by Massachusetts Youth Soccer that brings together age and gender group champions from travel leagues across the state. The Vineyard plays in the South Coast Conference. The under-12s were undefeated with a record of 8-0-0, and can win a berth in the tournament with a win this weekend over Dartmouth.
In their first playoff game against Barnstable, played in West Tisbury, the under-12s won 6-1. Jason Lages had five goals, but coach Matt Poole said the prolific scoring was a byproduct of strong team play.
“We regularly field eight highly skilled players for each game . . . and those five goals by Jason were entirely the result of everyone playing like a team. We stress the team concept, passing the ball, finding your teammates,” he said.
The under-14 team is still vying for a MTOC berth, and can advance with a win on the road against Taunton followed by a win versus Norton at a neutral site. The under-16 team is one of two South Coast teams to already qualify for the MTOC, while the under-18 team can win a berth in the tournament with a win over Barnstable at a neutral site this week.
The under-10 team also compiled a winning record this year, although that age level does not play in the MTOC. The team instead played in a Friendship Tournament.
“At every level we have very talented kids . . . soccer is just part of the Vineyard culture. The kids start playing at a young age and receive top notch instruction from many dedicated people,” Mr. Poole said.
He praised the work of his fellow coach, Esteban Aranzabe.
“He has this contagious enthusiasm for the game the kids feed on. If you ask a lot of the kids who is their biggest soccer role model, I think a lot of them would say Esteban,” he said.
The MTOC will be held on the weekend of June 26-28 at Citizens Bank Fields at Progin Park in Lancaster. í