Want to be a player on the Vinalhaven girls’ basketball team? Easy. Here’s all you need to do.

Get on the ferry to Rockland on Friday afternoon – it leaves at 1 p.m. When you get to the mainland, get a comfortable seat on the bus; the drive to the game could be up to 21/2 or three hours.

Remember to bring pajamas, because you’ll be sleeping in the gym after the game, and then waking up early Saturday morning to play another game before getting back on the bus, and then back on the ferry to make it back home by Saturday afternoon or evening.

Simple enough, right?

“I’m too old for it, I’ll tell you that,” Coach Sandy Nelson said, laughing.

That’s just life on the island, and this year, buses and ferries and gymnasiums doubling as hotels were no match for the Vikings. Vinalhaven went 14-4 in the regular season and then rolled to its first state championship, topping Shead 55-44 in the Class D state final to earn distinction as the Team of the Year at the Varsity Maine Awards.

“We have a very, very healthy respect for each other, which I think is very important,” Nelson said. “They’re just great kids.”

And talented. Led by captain and point guard Paige Dennison, Vinalhaven rolled past Highview Christian Academy, Temple Academy and then Forest Hills in the playoffs. When the time came to tackle Shead, Nelson knew her team wouldn’t be stopped short.

“We just opened it up, we were ready to go,” she said. “They were not to be denied, and they played wicked good defense that day.”

Tall tasks and challenges are nothing new at Vinalhaven, where just getting to the game is an ordeal. Long rides on sea and land are only part of the hassle; there are also ferry delays and cancellations, which can threaten an entire weekend.

“Sometimes there’s a medical emergency the night before and the morning ferry won’t go,” Nelson said. “That’s why when we came up for the tournament we came up a night ahead and stayed in a hotel room. Because you never know.”

The fact that the Vinalhaven system runs as efficiently as it does still bewilders Nelson.

“We have what we call bumps in the road, and somehow, some way, we just get through them,” she said. “If I didn’t experience this, I would never believe it.”

For the players, however, it’s a way of life. They get pizza for the ferry, snacks for the drive – Nelson said the team never, ever misses a chance to reload at Hannaford and Subway in Rockland – and use the time together as a chance to bond as teammates.

“You know what? It is what it is. And that’s what they’re used to,” Nelson said. “If we don’t go, we don’t compete. We need to compete.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM