Photo: Head Coach Katy Ananian with her Belmont team.
Katy Ananian. Remember her?
Unlike former Belmont High sports stars whose playing careers were so long ago they played on grass and action photographs are in black and white, it was less than a decade Ananian – along with her talented sister Abby who played Division 1 lacrosse at St. Joseph’s – nearly singlehandedly made Marauder girls’ lacrosse into an annual playoff contender, a League All-Star and Boston Globe All-Scholastic goaltender whose unorthodox style stonewalled opponents securing victories for a then young program.
Well, she’s back on the Harris Field sidelines this spring, now as a first-year head coach in the hope of rekindling a team that has spent four years out of the Division North sectional tournament. So far, so good as the Marauders entered the week-long Spring Recess break at 3-0, 2-0 in Middlesex League play.
For Katy, a 2011 Belmont High graduate, leading the Marauders is where she always wanted to be.
“When I was playing for Belmont, in my mind I was thinking “I want to coach Belmont one day,’ and that’s a true statement,” said Ananian, who regularly flashes a big smile she had during her playing days.
“There were moments when I took a step back and said ‘I love this program, I love this town. There’s a lot of pride here. So as soon as I saw that there might be an opening, I was like I have to jump on it,” she said after the team’s 18-7 win vs. Wilmington last week.
It’s a good transition for Ananian having been an assistant coach at Wheelock College in 2016, a year after finishing an outstanding college playing career.
As a four-year varsity starter in goal at Wheaton College in Norton, Ananian led her team to an ECAC title as a freshman and an appearance in the NCAA Division 3 Championships her junior year after winning the NEWMAC tourney.
Having played the sport in college and with recent coaching experience, “so this was the perfect opportunity to take this program forward,” Ananian said.
Belmont’s Athletic Director Jim Davis said Ananian had all the qualities he was looking for in a new coach “who can jumpstart the sport.”
“She’s enthusiastic with a real knowledge of the game. It’s a great fit,” he said.
What Ananian brings to the program is an approach to playing that incorporates the mindset and physical play of the college game to the high school stage.
“Katy, who is fresh out of college, brings this modern way to play lacrosse to Belmont,” said senior captain AnnMarie Habelow. “She is bringing so many new ideas here that she’s flipping the program around right from the start.”
“My big thing is teamwork,” said Ananian who said she last year she attended a few Belmont games where she saw a great deal of individual talent “but it didn’t come together.”
“My philosophy also includes a ton of team bonding. If they like each other on and off the field, we will play better.” she said, noting that the team’s chemistry on the pitch is “fantastic.”
And she gave the players a unique music analogy on playing as units on the field, that playing defense is like classical music while being on offense is hard rock.
“They looked at me like I was a crazy person. But then I heard a couple of them say, ‘classical,’ ‘heavy metal’ and it really makes sense when you put it together,” she said.
Defense is “pretty, very mechanical and you have to communicate in a calm way. While offense is you want to attack, be loud and go hard at the goal.”
While the season has just begun, the start has been encouraging as Belmont has outscored the opposition by double figures in each of the first three games. Against Wilmington, Belmont took an early ten goal lead only to see it reduced to seven before goals by Habelow and Sophie Pollock stemmed the tide.
Ananian is realistic about games to come against more accomplished, experienced teams in the Middlesex League, five which made the postseason last year.
“I told them that not every game is going to come easy for us. We need to take advantage of opportunities where we can play as a team and pass the ball around and come up with ‘pretty’ plays that will beat these strong defenses,” said Ananian.
But Ananian remains confident that her first campaign will be a success.
“My idea for this season was a clean slate. I didn’t want to pay attention to anything that happened last season. I see us going wherever our teamwork can take us,” said noted.
“As long as we want it as a collective team, I could see us competing with the Readings and the Winchesters,” she said.