There were no vuvuzelas at Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven when the Island’s U-13 boys’ travel soccer team approached their playoff game on Saturday, but the lack of long plastic horns did not make it that much quieter than the World Cup games going on at the same time in South Africa.
The unison clapping escalated as the team shouted “Yeah! Yeah! Go Vineyard!” just before returning to the field for the second half of their do-or-die game. The power of their shouts was startling 150 yards away on the bleachers, indicating this was no run-of-the mill soccer team but rather a team of sophisticated young boys now looking towards the Massachussetts championship.
After their halftime pump-up cheer, the score remained 1-0 for only a minute. Then the Vineyard boys scored four consecutive goals in a matter of five minutes. A breakaway on the first play, a corner kick and some deft footwork brought the score to Vineyard 5, Barnstable 0, which is how the game ended.
The victory over Barnstable in this last round of the league playoffs means the Vineyard U-13 boys’ travel soccer team will represent their league in the Massachusetts Tournament of Champions (MTOC) taking place next weekend.
The Vineyard’s U-15 Boys also finished their season in first place, and on Sunday won their final against Dartmouth 4-1; they also will represent the league at the state finals.
Although the tournament brings the top teams from each league in the state (there are 10 different leagues that participate), this year’s U-13 team has particular reason to be confident entering the thick of competition. Besides having a perfect record so far this season and post-season, they have reached the final four of the MTOC for the past two years. In 2008, (when they were U-11s) they took second place, and in 2009 (as U-12s) they took third place.
Watching them beat Barnstable was like much more mature soccer; the players were working as a team rather than 11 individuals. Passes were precise, as they deftly played keep-away looking for ways to advance the ball towards the goal. Many players used their heads almost as much as their feet, it seemed, which is no small matter because despite how easy it looks when the World Cup pros take “headers,” it takes guts and practice to smack a soccer ball with your head.
Coaches Estaban Aranzabe and Matt Poole were active on the sidelines. Mr. Aranzabe could be heard shouting “Pressure! Pressure!” when the other team had the ball all through the game, even when their win was virtually certain. A particularly practiced coach, Mr. Aranzabe started coaching kids 17 years ago, when he was 15 years old. When he coaches a team, he said, he likes to stay with them from when they are very young until they continue on to the next step, high school or college.
The boys continued to play a solid game, even after building such a lead. Some of their second half fervor may be attributable to the stamina the team has built up during off-season training. The team has practiced indoors in the Martha’s Vineyard Boys’ and Girls’ Club all winter, which helps them with passing and getting touches on the ball said Coach Aranzabe. While many other teams may come together only when the season begins, the Vineyard team has an edge from playing together all winter.
“We’re really happy to [reach the finals] because it is the fruition of all that work,” said Coach Aranzabe.
“The group has been pretty consistent for three years,” said Coach Poole. “The good thing about that is when they get to high school they will enter as a unified group that breaks down town lines.”
The Vineyard players come from almost every school on the Island, plus one who attends Falmouth Academy. Although used to winning, the team plays a hard game, seemingly free of attitude. Afterward both teams enjoyed food prepared by parents of the Vineyard squad, a tradition they keep after every game of the season. “We have a barbeque for both teams no matter the score,” said Coach Aranzabe.
Next to the food stand hung a rope upon on which were mounted several flags representing the different nationalities of the teams’ players — not unlike the national banners World Cup captains exchange before each game.
Of the seven travel teams on the Vineyard this spring, six made it to the playoffs in their leagues, all placing in the top three. However, only the U-13 boys’ team and the U-15 boys’ team won their playoffs and so will represent their league in the MTOC next weekend.
Come the weekend, the World Cup will be down to its final 16, but for these Vineyard squads it will be down to two, the finals, their shot at achieving a state championship.
The U-13s team include Silas Berlin, Colin Cameron, Gabriel deOliveira, Brandon Dwane, Lee Faraca, Yannick Gonsalves, Alex Gordon Beck, Eli Hanschka, Jack Hewitt, Elie Jordi, Jason Lages, Gordon Moore, Anders Nelson, Ben Poole, Andrew Ruimerman, Peter Ruimerman, Guilherme Sales, Chase Silvia, Matthew Stone and Ryan Uva.
The U-15s team includes Kane Araujo, Vincent Carlomagno, Arthur Castro, Kyp Cooperrider, David DaSilva, Ben Dwane, Sam Entner, Kyle Joba-Woodruff, Jacob Lawrence, Patrick Mcdonough, Evandro Medici, Felix Reagan, John Roberts, Michael Schroeder, Chris Serpa, Justin Smith and Benjamin Wadleigh. They are coached by Phil Dwayne and Trip Wadleigh.
Saturday’s game was taped by MVTV and will air during the week. Check their listings at www.mvtv.org/mvtv_schedule.php.