Photo: Junior Morgan Chase scores vs. Central Catholic.
For 60 minutes on Saturday night, Nov. 4, the Belmont High Field Hockey team ran, passed and demonstrated solid stick skills that on most days would secure an easy victory for the Marauders.
But that wasn’t the case on a turf field in downtown Lawrence. It just so happened fifth-ranked Belmont met a fourth-seed Central Catholic High team that decided to show off its best form of the season against the visitors.
“They were really that good,” said Belmont Head Coach Jessica Smith after her team’s 6-1 defeat to the Raiders. “You should feel like you didn’t come out to play. That was not the case. They were superstars tonight and you were outmatched. It happens.”
“I asked their coach if they play like that all the time and she said that [Saturday’s game] was by far their best game of the entire year,” Smith told the Belmontonian. “We just got them on their best day ever.”
“They had to be their best because they were playing us,” noted one of the team co-captains which her colleagues agreed.
Belmont ended their season with a 13-3-2 record which included a 1-0 overtime victory over Natick in the opening round of the sectionals. The seniors, many who played the past three years on varsity, leave a strong legacy to build on, compiling a 42-9-3 record that included two league titles and three postseason appearances.
For senior forward and co-captain Alexa Sabatino, the night brought to a close a successful season for this tight set of teammates.
“At the beginning of the season, we lost two really important players (AnneMarie Habelow and Julia Chase who are currently playing Division 1 college field hockey), so we knew we had to work really hard. And everyone really stepped up because we needed that cohesiveness to go this far,” said Sabatino.
“And it was so much fun coming to practice this year, not one dreads it. It was a great team aspect, so we’re all really happy what we accomplished and be a part of it,” Sabatino said.
As for the game, Central Catholic was rolling on both sides of the ball using a great deal of speed, pinpoint passing and a swarming defense to counter a Belmont team that was performing at a high level of hockey proficiency. Standout defender sophomore Emma Donahue was kept busy with backline teammates seniors Meri Power and Johnna Crowley and sophomore Meaghan Noone to halt the Raiders straight-line offense up and down the pitch.
But it was the lack of a scoring punch, a bugaboo for Belmont all season long, along with Central Catholics swarming defense around the ball which kept the Marauders off balance inside the attack circle.
After a close miss by the left post by junior forward Mia Kaldenbaugh, Belmont finally broke through four minutes from the end when junior forward Morgan Chase – who scored against Central Catholic two years ago in a 5-3 victory in an opening-round playoff game – slotted a shot from two meters out into the right side of the Raiders’ net with an assist from sophomore midfield standout Katie Guden.
The Marauders got its post-season off on the right foot against Natick on Wednesday with an exciting 1-0 OT victory at Harris Field that belied just how dominate Belmont was on the pitch. Belmont grabbed 21 penalty corners to Natick’s 1 and had 26 shots to the Redhawks’ 2. But as in Lawrence, Belmont could not find the final touch on the ball despite playing nearly the entire second half in the Natick end.
That lack of a scoring punch nearly came back to bite the Marauders as Natick came out the aggressor in the overtime – when the teams are reduced to 7 players from 11 – as Belmont relied on Donahue to make some critical stops in front of senior goalie Christine MacLeod. The game-winner came two minutes remaining in the first extra session when Guden “decided that this game had gone on too long” and put in a shot from beyond 10 meters to secure the win.
The playoff victory softened the team’s exit from the sectionals which also brought to an end “coaching one of my favorite of all teams I’ve ever had,” said an emotional Smith.
“Now I don’t have anything to do in the afternoons,” Smith told her team saying she even enjoyed coming to practice each day. “Maybe I’ll now just go clean my house,” she said.