It was hard to say what was more threatening Tuesday, the gray and imposing skies hanging over the athletic field at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, or the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams, who both rolled over their opponents in back-to-back games during the first round of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic tournament.
The girls’ team rallied from an early deficit in the opener against Ashland to win by a comfortable margin of 14-10, while the boys dominated in the nightcap against TriCounty Vocational High School, running away with a 20-1 win. Dark and ominous clouds hung over both games, although the rains held off for the girls’ game before the skies opened up at the start of the boys game.
Heavy rain created muddy and slippery playing conditions, but this did little to slow the boys, who scored the most goals of the season.
With the win the sixth-seed girls advanced to the second round of the tournament and will play at third seeded Scituate on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Meanwhile the 10th seeded boys played at seventh-seeded Arlington Catholic yesterday afternoon; results of that game were not available at press time, but will appear in Tuesday’s edition of the Gazette.
A large crowd of students, parents and fans — many dressed in the school’s colors of purple and white — packed the bleachers and lined the playing field even before the girls’ team took the field Tuesday. Coach Betsy Dripps started warming up her players around 3:15 p.m. in anticipation of a 4 p.m. start, but the Ashland team was late, and the game didn’t start until about 4:45 p.m.
At first the delay didn’t seem to faze the Vineyarders, who had a 15-3 record overall and 11-0 in their conference, as Molly Fischer stormed down the field in the opening minutes to score and give the home team an early 1-0 advantage. But Ashland apparently was not intimidated and reeled off three unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead.
The Vineyarders looked stunned, and Coach Dripps called a time-out to regroup. Whatever she said in the huddle worked, as the team came out firing and scored four unanswered goals to take back a 6-4 lead at halftime. After the game Coach Dripps said the long delay before the game might have led to the sluggish start.
“An hour is a long time to be out on the field warming up, it might have thrown off our timing. But I have to give Ashland credit, their stick play was impressive. They came out passing the ball really well, and it forced us to make some adjustments,” she said.
The two teams traded goals in the second half before the Vineyarders surged ahead to take a four-goal lead. Ashland would cut the lead to three several times, but each time the Vineyarders answered back to maintain their four goal lead.
The play of the game came early in the second half, when defenseman Brianna Davies checked Ashland’s goalie in front of the cage, stole the ball, and turned around and fired in a spectacular goal. The crowd stood and cheered, and it left no doubt the Vineyarders were in complete control.
Coach Dripps said Davies, who finished with two goals, had the best game of her career.
“She was spectacular; I can’t say enough good things. That goal gave our team a charge in the second half, and it ignited the crowd. She also did a fantastic job shutting down Ashland’s top scorer on defense. She was a big reason we won the game,” she said.
The coach also praised sophomore Madison Hughes, who led the team with four goals. “Maddie has played great for us all season, but to step up like that with four goals in the tournament — as only a sophomore, no less — that’s really something,” she said.
Senior captain Hayley Pierce had three goals and three assists for the Vineyarders and Fischer finished with two goals. The defense was also stellar, led by Davies, Nikki Alexander and Angela DeBettencourt.
Coach Dripps said she hopes to improve on last year’s performance in the state tournament. Although last year’s team, which included many of this year’s players, went a perfect 18-0 in the regular season, they lost at home to Hingham in the second round of the tournament.
“The players don’t talk about it much, but I know they think about it,” the coach said. “All the girls set goals before each game, both for themselves and the team, and I would suspect winning [in the second round] is a goal for them,” she said, adding:
“But whatever happens, I am so pleased with how they played all season. We have this great mix of seniors and young players, a group that gets along and loves to play the game. It’s a great group to be around,” she said.
There was decidedly less drama in the second game of Tuesday’s lacrosse double-feature, as the boys jumped out to an early 5-0 lead against TriCounty Vocational in the first few minutes and built their lead from there, leading 10-0 at the half and 17-1 with three minutes to play in the third quarter, when coach Chris Greene started to empty his bench.
TriCounty has a relatively new lacrosse program, and plays most games during the regular season against other vocational high schools. But still the coach was pleased with his team’s effort. “I think we were focused, and we kept our intensity after we took a big lead. That’s a good sign moving forward,” he said.
Erik Dolliver led the team with four goals; Chris Costello had three goals. A long list of players had single goals.
Coach Greene said the team is playing its best lacrosse of the season since a tough loss to Falmouth last month in which the teams were tied with three minutes to play. “We wanted that win so much. But it was that really hot Wednesday, and the players just ran out of gas. We lost the game, but I think it lit a fire under the team, and now we’re peaking at the right time,” he said.
In other sports news; the boys’ and girls’ track teams completed their seasons last Saturday after sending a contingent of qualifiers to Seekonk for the Eastern Massachusetts Division 4 meet. Maggie Riseborough finished 5th in the shot put, Conor Estes finished 5th in the 400 meter hurdles and Marcus Hopkins finished 6th in the 200 meter run.
And after one of their strongest seasons ever, the boys’ tennis tean is fourth seed in the state tournament and will play today at home at 3 p.m. against 13th seeded Cohasset. The girls’ tennis team plays Ursuline Academy today.