High school sports teams move indoors this weekend as hundreds of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students athletes lace up skates and sneakers for the winter sports season.

This season also marks a year of transition into the nine-team Cape and Islands League. Three teams will make the change this year from the Eastern Athletic Conference: boys hockey, and boys and girls basketball. Other teams will join next year.

Last year, only indoor track made it to the postseason, with most teams fielding young rosters. High school athletic director Mark McCarthy said a host of returning players and a new conference could give teams a boost.

“I’m anticipating that every year we get more and more experience we’re going to start seeing the programs get more and more successful,” he said.

Basketball games are played at the regional high school gym and ice hockey games are played at the ice arena across the road rom the high school. Track meets are held off-Island at Wheaton College.

Boys Ice Hockey

Coach Matt Mincone, now in his 21st season, talks to his team. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Now in his 21st season, Coach Matt Mincone said he isn’t letting a two-year playoff drought lower his expectations for his 23 skaters who will take the ice for a series of scrimmages this weekend. He said a number of close games during last year’s five-win season proved to him that the team’s talent was on the rise, and this season he thinks a league title is within reach.

“The goal is going to be to try and win the league,” he said. “The past couple of years we’ve been on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Now, we’re on the climb in the right direction.”

Mr. Mincone called returning senior captain Ian Tranze an anchor on defense and pointed to forwards Hunter Ponte, also a captain, and Colby Darba as the team’s offensive threats. He said returning assistant coaches Geoghan Coogan and Dayce Moore will also be huge assets.

The boys scrimmaged against Lexington Friday night and are hosting a doubleheader on Saturday, first against Oyster River at noon and Acton-Boxboro at 5:30 p.m.

Girls Ice Hockey

The last few seasons the girls ice hockey team has struggled, but coach John Fiorito said it could all change this year with a talented roster of 16 girls, including the return of three senior co-captains: Sally Caron on defense, and top-scorers Hailey Meader and Meghan Sonia.

“We have a chance to be a little better this year,” said Mr. Fiorito. “It’s cyclical and we’re in a bit of a downturn, but hopefully it will become an upturn.”

Now in his ninth season as coach, Mr. Fiorito said the team’s chances will rely heavily on a solid defense led by veterans Lauren Boyd, Ruby Reimann and goalie Amelia Simmons. Whatever the final record, he said the goal is for the team to show improvement this year as the program rebuilds. There will be some good action on the ice at the annual Nan Rheault Tournament in January.

“We want to grow as athletes,” the coach said. “In wins and losses, we want to get better every day. When we struggle we can still grow and learn.”

The girls take the ice in a Cape and Islands jamboree scrimmage this weekend with a doubleheader against Needham. Games start Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

Boys Basketball

Last year Coach Michael Joyce’s young squad finished the season with just two wins, breaking a streak of eight straight tournament appearances for the Vineyarders. But he said the team is already showing improvement this year and is ready to take charge of the court against new Cape and Islands opponents.

“You can see it in the first practices already that they are confident in what they’re doing and we can really get started much further down the path then we did last year,” he said.

Mr. Joyce, now in his 16th season, said returning players mean he can focusing on raising basketball IQ and teaching the players to master their positions. He said the team stands a good chance of a tournament run this year with the help of six seniors and plenty of juniors and sophomores to back them up.

Before the first home game of the season on Dec. 13, the team has a tradition of traveling to Windsor High School in Connecticut to play a series of scrimmages and contribute non-perishable goods to the Windsor Food Bank. the coach said it’s a time for team bonding and making sure skills learned in practice translate over to real competition.

“These guys have already done it for a year,” he added. “They’ve physically grown and gotten more confident. We have a good deal of talent.”

Girls Basketball

Girls basketball team looks to a new beginning. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Youth is also the story for the girls basketball team with only three varsity players returning from last year, including Alley Estrella as the only senior. Though last season started with a string of wins, the team struggled to maintain momentum and finished 7-13.

Coach Sterling Bishop, now in his eighth year of coaching MVRHS basketball, said the switch to the Cape and Islands League could give the team a boost this year and allow for more competitive match-ups.

“I feel it’s a little bit more on our level competitively,” he said. “I think we’re going to be in closer games and it’s going to be more fun for our kids.”

The coach said his goal this season is to groom players into leaders on the court and in the classroom. He added that he’s been impressed by the speed and determination of his players in practices so far, despite their inexperience.

“We’re building and we have a nice core and we’re excited for the season,” he said.

The first home game is Tuesday, Dec. 11 against Monomoy Regional High School.

Indoor Track

A record 56 students signed up for the indoor track team this season in just the fifth year of the program, up from 33 last year. With spots to fill for 12 events ranging from sprints to shot put, Coach Joe Schroeder said the big numbers give the team a welcome advantage.

“Larger teams give you more versatility,” he said. “We’re hoping to give athletes a chance to specialize a little bit. This will maybe take the load off veterans so everyone can focus on one to two events instead of three to four.”

The indoor team made a strong showing at the division 5 meet last year, with the boys team finishing 19th out of 37 teams and the girls earning a 13th place finish out of 40. Seven athletes also competed at the all-state meet, including Amber Cuthbert, who finished sixth in the mile, the best finish for a freshman. Long jumpers Alexis Condon and Dash Christy, two-miler Catherine Cherry, miler Peter Burke, hurdler Joe Bonneau and shot putter Nate Packer rounded out the group. All are returning this season.

Mr. Schroeder said the team’s current focus is conditioning and slotting each athlete into the event that best suits them. Despite the cold weather, practices are held at the outdoor track and sometimes in the school hallways, due to the lack of an indoor track facility on the Island. Mr. Schroeder said the team is embracing the challenge as they prepare for their first meet against Bishop Stang on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

“We’d like to do as well or better in the division meet,” he said. “We’re always looking to improve on that.”