The Martha’s Vineyard boys’ soccer team won one game in the Division 2 state tournament last year before losing, 1-0, to Holliston.
Coach Damon Burke, who had 10 seniors from last season graduate, wasn’t sure if he would have a team that could equate last year’s success.
“I knew we would do well, but losing that many seniors, you’d think there would be a little bit of a drop off,” said Burke.
But 14 games later, the No. 17 Vineyarders have posted a 12-0-2 record, and Burke is pretty content with his team’s performances.
“These guys came into preseason and worked their tails off,” Burke said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
One area that Burke has been particularly impressed with is the defense. The Vineyarders’ backline has allowed just four goals all season — good for a 0.29 goals-against average.
Junior Ben Poole has started at sweeper since his freshman year. And over that time, Poole has improved and became the heart of the defense for Martha’s Vineyard.
“He’s a terrific athlete overall. He’s very, very calm under pressure,” Burke said.
“He understands the position very well, and he’s very rarely caught out of position. As a freshman, one of the challenges was that he was playing against players who were sometimes four or five years older than he is.
“He’s kept it very simple, and now he’s really expanding that role.”
Burke also has two center midfielders whose roles complement each other.
“[Junior] Kane Araujo is our link-up player for sure,” said Burke. “He’s very creative, again, terrific vision, he’s constantly moving around the field. He’s got a fairly free reign, because we have a holding midfielder, Noah Kleinhenz.
“They work very well together. And Noah in past years has been more of an offensive minded player, but we needed him to take on the very specific role as a holding midfielder. The combination of him really managing that defensive midfield role, understanding it and executing, allows Kane to roam and link-up.”
Because of the understanding of each other that Burke’s players have around the entire field, his team prefers to play a possession-oriented style.
“In general, we’re looking to create a situation where we have an extra man in attack, and you have to build to that,” Burke said.
“The key to that is that a lot of our players — fullbacks, midfielders, and two strikers — we don’t have one particular individual that plays the target man.”
The Vineyarders don’t rely on just one player to score — they have had 13 different goal scorers. But leading the frontline is a sophomore, Jason Lages, who has netted 15 goals.
“Jason is a fantastic finisher,” Burke said.
“We look to get him into places where he’s got the green light if he’s in a one-on-one. His movement off the ball is amazing. He’s hard to keep track of. One of the really great things about him is that he’s very two-footed.”
Sam Entner, a senior captain, plays on the wing and leads by example.
“He is absolutely the heart of the team,” Burke said. “Sam is an unbelievable athlete, He has an engine that just won’t quit.
“Having a guy like Sam on the team is fantastic, because you can use him as an example of effort and someone who genuinely cares. He never takes a play off. He’s all heart.”
Cancado completes comeback
At halftime on Thursday, then-No. 8 Framingham was down by a goal at then-No. 9 Wellesley.
But the Flyers (10-1-1) bounced back after the interval, thanks to the strong play of center midfielder Lorran Cancado.
Cancado, who showed glimpses of his immense talent in the first half, was instrumental in the Flyers’ second-half comeback, scoring the tying goal in the 53d minute on a sweet strike with his favored left foot.
“It was a nice individual effort, a nice shot,” said Framingham coach Danny Avery. “He had a strong game. He was creating a lot offensively, especially in the second half.”
Wellesley coach Tim Mason noted the talent of Cancado after the game, too.
“I think they did a good job of getting the ball to [Cancado],” Mason said.
“We knew he was a good player. He’s sort of their luxury player who they allow to get on the ball a lot.”
Games of the week
Nauset at Dennis-Yarmouth, Thursday – The Dolphins won one game combined in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Now coach Bill Altieri’s team (6-3-1 in ACL, 6-4-1 overall) is one point away from a playoff spot, sitting second in the Atlantic Coast League behind Nauset.
Framingham at Needham, Thursday – The Flyers had a 2-1 lead over Needham at home, but lost, 3-2, after conceding two goals in the final five minutes. Can Needham defend its undefeated record, or will the Flyers avenge the loss from late September?
St. John’s Prep at BC High, Wednesday – When the two Catholic Conference rivals met in September, St. John’s Prep came from behind at home to win, 3-1. The Catholic Conference is virtually on the line — these two rarely drop points — and Prep is in the driver’s seat after their last win against BC High.