High school fall sports kicked off with meet the coaches night last Wednesday at the Performing Arts Center. Athletic director Mark McCarthy introduced the head coaches and team captains to the crowd of fall athletes and their parents.

After introductions, McCarthy explained that while the Vineyard is now part of the Cape and Islands League, teams will compete in different divisions within the league: Atlantic, which houses larger schools like Falmouth and Barnstable, and Lighthouse, which contains smaller schools like Sandwich and Nantucket.

Dr. Kevin Mabie, an orthopedic surgeon at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and Anthony Piland, a physician’s assistant, gave a presentation on treatment and prevention of ankle injuries. Both stressed the importance of protecting ankles when active. Ankle protection has earned its own spot in the famous R.I.C.E. acronym, which according to doctors Mabie and Piland is now known as P.R.I.C.E.

Golf

Thursday marks the first official contest of the fall for Vineyard athletics as the golf team lead by coach Doug DeBettencourt heads up to Brockton to face off with Cardinal Spellman.

The Vineyard golf team finished as the seventh best team in Massachusetts last year. Topping that will be no easy feat, but the Vineyard has no shortage of young golfers that are hungry for a challenge.

Coach Debettencourt said he has never seen a larger number of students go out for golf in his time as head coach. Forty students tried out for 18 roster spots — eight varsity, and 10 junior varsity.

“The freshmen class is very, very strong. I anticipate between three and five (freshmen) will make varsity,” the coach said.

The shift to the Atlantic division brings about new foes and new courses to conquer. “It’s going to be a challenging league schedule for us this year. We’re the only division three school in the Atlantic, all other schools are division two or one,” Debettencourt said.

Football

Coach Donald Herman’s gridiron warriors kick off their season Saturday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. against the Seekonk Warriors at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs. The season was originally scheduled to begin Friday night but was rescheduled due to pending weather.

Herman said Seekonk has a “sophomore quarterback that’s going to spread the field and throw the ball 80 per cent of the time,” noting a strategy that’s uncommon in high school football.

“College game day afternoon is what we’re going to see Friday night,” Coach Herman said.

Echoing last year’s squad, Herman’s boys are young. But with a large number of returning juniors and sophomores with varsity experience and robust leadership from team captains Josh Pinto and Zach Smith, the team is primed to make a statement in the Lighthouse division. The team is eyeing the Island Cup and bringing it back to its rightful Island home for the first time since 2015.

Cross Country

Coach Joe Schroeder is coming off of a wildly successful 2018 season that saw his girls become division champions for the first time in the program’s history and finish the season as the fifth-best team in the commonwealth. 

While not as decorated as the girls, the boys still placed fifth in the division championship and finished as the tenth best team in the commonwealth at the state championship.

As a result of his team’s successes last year, Schroeder was named the division five girl’s cross country coach of the year by the Boston Globe.

The team hosts the Martha's Vineyard Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 14 (rescheduled from Sept. 7 due to impending weather).

His speedsters, led by captains Catherine Cherry, Peter Burke and Vito Aiello, will challenge the Atlantic division on their journey back to the top of the Massachusetts cross country mountain.

Soccer

Also on Saturday, girls soccer start their season on the road against the Dedham Marauders. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m.

Led by coach Rocco Bellebuono and captains Klara Reimann and Madia Bellebouno, the girls will compete in the Atlantic division against a few familiar faces, such as Dennis-Yarmouth, from last year.

They will also face old Eastern Athletic Conference foe Coyle & Cassidy of Taunton and new opponents this year in Sandwich, Nauset and Barnstable.

Later on Saturday, the boys soccer team begins its season with an away game against Brockton high school starting at 1:30 p.m.

First-year head coach John Walsh is no stranger to Vineyard soccer, having been the travel coach of the incoming freshmen class for the past five years.

While Walsh has the luxury of knowing he has “a lot of very talented underclassmen,” he stressed how much he appreciates the leadership of his two captains, Morgan Estrella and Emanuel DaSilva.

Estrella is a defensive midfielder that Walsh says is a “workhorse and runs the show.”

Walsh described DaSilva as a “dynamo upfront that’s talented enough to bounce around the field a little bit.” He praised DaSilva for his coachability and said his demeanor has had a trickle-down effect among his players. “The strongest groups I’ve been with have been the tightest,” the coach said.

The boys will also compete in the Atlantic division, facing off with the most premier teams on the Cape and just off it, in Nauset and Brockton.

“We have a really tough schedule, Nauset is iron. They’re the best team on the Cape.” Walsh said.

Field Hockey

Field hockey begins on the road Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. against Nauset.

First-year head coach Becky Nutton said her captains, Megan Zeilinger, Skylar Harthcock and Rose Herman “have been fantastic. They organized captains’ practices throughout the summer and have been really good leaders for the underclassmen.”

Before becoming the varsity field hockey coach at MVRHS, Nutton previously coached boys and girls middle and high school field hockey at the Royal Hospital School in Ipswich, England. She also coached for two years at Davidson College in North Carolina.

“The biggest thing I want my team to have is absolute professionalism when you’re on the field and give 100 per cent effort and focus,” Coach Nutton said. “I take practice very seriously, and I want every minute to be used to better themselves. The girls are absolutely taking that on board, and it’s been a very positive start to our season.”

With senior goalkeeper Amelia Simmons’s “natural quick abilities,” the team’s defenders and midfielders “really smart and strong defending” along with their fast forwards, gives Vineyard field hockey more than a fair shot to make some noise in the Lighthouse division, thee coach said.