Photo: Puppy pile for Belmont’s second goal with sophomore Emma O’Donovan taking the prize.
In an early season matchup of the creme of the Middlesex League Liberty crop, Belmont High Field Hockey provided Friday afternoon that team speed is dangerous for opponents as the Marauders ran past defending league champions Winchester High, 3-0.
“It’s all the 400s [meter] runs I make them do,” said Belmont Head Coach Jess Smith as her team, ranked 15th in the Boston Globe Top 20 poll, remains undefeated at 4-0-0 while Winchester, ranked 6th in the Globe poll, drops to 2-1-0.
“We knew we were good but to beat someone like [Winchester, which last year made the Division 1 North finals] makes it’s not just talking. The win makes it ‘legit,'” said Smith.
Senior co-captain and wing Morgan Chase, junior midfield Katie Guden and sophomore forward Emma O’Donovan scored in the first half as the Marauders kept the majority of possession for most of the first 30 minutes.
For Smith, the victory was a combination of her player’s quickness and their commitment to ball movement.
“I think our speed is killer,” she said. “We have athletic kids, we are super aggressive all over the field, and our passing is extremely good,” said Smith. “No one can run faster than a ball so if we can keep passing it up the field that quickly, we’re gonna get into the [scoring] circle faster than their backs.”
The Marauders’ team up-tempo pace showed as it took away passing lanes in the middle of the field. Belmont also took the majority of 50/50 balls as well as stealing the ball on man-to-man clashes with Belmont’s senior forward and co-captain Jordan Lettiere, the prime suspect in many of those heists.
Along the back line, junior Meaghan Noone effectively shut down Winchester’s right side attacks. Junior Emma Donahue was once again a significant presence in the middle as sophomore Hayley Koenigsberg kept Winchester’s outstanding senior forward Claire Moloney-Kolenberg in check off the left wing in the battle of the great German/Dutch surnames.
“You just have to get psyched up, getting really low to stop their good girl. And I’m thinking about trying to get it back up to the midfielders,” said Noone.
Quarterbacking the midfield, three-year varsity starter Guden’s stellar stick handling skills allowed Belmont to keep the pressure on Winchester’s midfield and backs.
“My game plan just get it in the [scoring] circle early, play as aggressive as I want to play, and look to pass it because it’s not a one-person game,” said Guden.
Junior Molly Calkins earned the solo shut out in her first varsity start as the Marauders’ goalkeeper.
“I was so nervous when [Smith] said I was going to start, I said ‘Oh no!’ But once we got onto the field, we all just worked together and communicated really well,” said Calkins who stopped four shots.
Smith and the team face a crowded week of games, four in five days, with an away game Tuesday at an excellent Lexington team the highlight. But for now, Smith is reluctant to change anything about the squad.
“We have this great lineup, the players work really well together, they’re confident and their speedy. That’s how we are going to approach every game, with confidence and speed,” she said.