In a historic weekend for Vineyard sports, both the girls’ hockey and basketball squads punched tickets to the playoffs last Saturday afternoon, marking the first time in the regional high school’s history that all four winter varsity teams will compete in the postseason. The boys’ teams qualified for the state tournament earlier this month.

“It’s not an easy task to do, and to have all the teams do it in the same season...definitely it’s an accomplishment we can be proud of,” athletic director Mark McCarthy told the Gazette.

In order to move on to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament, a team must win at least half of its games. While this may be old hat to the powerhouse Vineyarder boys’ basketball team, which has an 18-2 record­­, it is a particularly heady time for the girls’ ice hockey team, which advanced to the state tournament for the first time in its 15-year history.

Marthas Vineyard girls hockey
Girls’ hockey team celebrates post-season clinching win. — Ivy Ashe

Assistant coach Andre Bonnell has been there since the beginning, before the team even had a league or a tournament to play in (the squad currently competes in the Southeastern Massachusetts Girls Hockey League). “To me, it’s very emotional,” Mr. Bonnell said after the team’s dramatic 2-1 clincher over Marshfield Saturday, tapping his heart and tearing up a bit. “They’ve been waiting for...years. That’s huge. The pressure was huge.”

The Vineyarders came out strong against Marshfield, with junior goalie Texe Craig making several key stops in the first period to hold off the Rams until the offense could find its groove. Senior captain Celia Mercier scored on an assist from junior Emily Cimeno late in the first, finding her way past All-Star Marshfield goalie Taylor Newcomb.

Cimeno in turn scored on an assist from Mercier and senior Lily Gazaille in the second period, which was answered by a Marshfield power play goal. The Vineyard defense fended off further attacks throughout the third to hold on to the win; Craig closed out the game with 22 saves.

“We were in shock, even when the buzzer sounded,” Mercier said after the game. “We were scrambling for the third period.”

The girls had lost to Marshfield, 1-0, earlier in the season.

“They left everything they had on the ice,” Mr. Bonnell said.” “Everybody stepped it up.”

Head coach John Fiorito was brief in his postgame locker room address to the team.

John Fiorito Celia Mercier girls hockey
High five for senior captain Celia Mercier. — Ivy Ashe

“I don’t have a lot to say, except—2-1, yeah, you couldn’t have come up with a better way to do it,” he said, standing amidst puddles of water from the girls’ not-quite-champagne celebration just a few minutes before. “We couldn’t be prouder.”

“And for the six seniors [Mercier, Gazaille, Olivia Cimeno, Rilla Hammett, Maggie Johnson and Lizzie Kelleher]...give it up for them,” coach Fiorito concluded, to an exuberant round of applause and cheers.

With the win over Marshfield, the girls moved to 10-7 on the season with three games to play (the Vineyarders have played two games since and are now 12-7. Their final game, against visiting Westwood, is today at 3 p.m.).

Unlike the hockey players, however, the girls’ basketball team had no extra chances to qualify for the playoffs during their Saturday game—an away match against Nantucket, their last match of the season. What would have been their final contest, a game against Nauset scheduled for Tuesday, had already been canceled. The girls were 9-9 and needed a win.

The Vineyarders led by nine at the half, though the Whalers had gone on a 10-point run to close out the second quarter. In the locker room, head coach Lisa Stewart sat back and listened as the girls planned their own strategies for the remainder of the game.

“They were getting it enough to make adjustments on the floor on their own,” coach Stewart recalled. “And that was just amazing to see them get that at this point in the season—that’s more than just Xs and Os when they start understanding that.”

The on-court adjustments worked, as the girls went on a tear in the second half, finishing the game with a lopsided 63-33 win. Junior Jennie Lindland scored 32 points, most sparked by defense and turnovers. Senior Maggie Riseborough turned in 14 points, while juniors Katie Stewart and Kendall Robinson (who also celebrated her birthday with the Nantucket win) contributed 7 and 4 points, respectively.

The girls have not made the postseason since 2003.

“I knew we were capable of it,” Coach Stewart said of the win. “I’m just so proud of these kids and I’m so happy for them.”

At the opposite end of the playoff qualification spectrum is the boys’ hockey team. The squad was the first Division II hockey team in the state to make the playoffs, as they jumped out to an early 10-2 record (although the EAC is a Division III league, the Vineyarders compete at a higher level in tournament play).

The boys return to the playoffs after a three-year absence; only two of the current players have been to states.

“It’s exciting to get back,” head coach Matt Mincone told the Gazette. “I kind of have a green team when it comes to tournament play, [but] is hockey.”

The team currently has a 12-6-1 record, with their final game taking place today at home at 6:30 p.m. Their opponent, Sandwich, is also a D-II school, giving the Vineyard a final chance at tuning up before the tournament.

Last year, the boys’ basketball team was the only squad to advance, carrying their run all the way to the South Section semifinals before losing in double overtime to Cardinal Spellman. The 2011-12 hoopsters, at 18-2, hold the best record of any of the Vineyard teams, This is the third year in a row the squad has won or shared the Eastern Athletic Conference championship title, as well as the third year running they have advanced to the MIAA tournament.

Tournament seedings will be announced today for the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, and tomorrow for the hockey teams. Boys’ basketball is “almost guaranteed” to have one (possibly two) home games, said Mr. McCarthy, and there is a possibility that girls’ hockey will play on home ice as well. The boys’ hockey team typically begins its postseason play in Bourne.

The end-of-the-season success is “kind of unique,” Mr. McCarthy said. “And I think people are excited.”