The Belmont High School Boys’ Soccer walked off the pitch at Chelmsford High School Thursday night, Nov. 13, knowing they weren’t cheated out of a chance for victory against Concord-Carlisle Regional High School.
“They were by far the best and most complete team we played all season. They were one of the few teams that put us back on our heels,” said Brian Bisceglia, Belmont’s first-year head coach after the 1-0 loss to the number-one seed in the Division 2 North Sectional semifinals.
“You gave it your all, and you should be proud of that effort,” Bisceglia told the team after the game.
But that didn’t make the defeat any less hard to take for the team, especially for the dozen seniors who played their final game in the Belmont kit.
“No regrets,” said senior Luke Gallagher, one of four co-captains (along with Peter Berens, Norman Kilavatitu and Ben Lazenby) who led the team to an impressive 15-4-2 season.
“Tonight I saw how far we’ve come this year and how much each and every player has developed, I’m proud of these guys,” said Gallagher.
“Every single day, at practice and in games, we put everything on the field. [Concord-Carlisle] won, but we didn’t lose it,” said Kilavatitu.
“The unfortunate part of a competition is that one team has to go home unhappy. But I’d rather play and risk that than to be afraid to experience losing,” Bisceglia told the team.
The Patriots – undefeated through the regular season with a 19-0-1 record – came into the game having rolled over Arlington (3-0) and Northeast Metro (8-0) looking as strong as their recent results would suggest. Strong, quick and disciplined, Concord-Carlisle’s midfielders made it difficult for Belmont to generate a sustained attack.
And the Marauder defense – headed by standout senior center back Amar Fernald and backstopped by Middlesex League All-Star goalkeeper Berens – was under sustained pressure in the first half as the Patriots used their height advantage to flick-on headers into dangerous positions on set pieces such as free and corner kicks.
Belmont’s best chance in the first half came when the Marauders had a free kick 25 meters from the Concord-Carlisle goal. The resulting attempt sailed by Patriot goalkeeper Bryce Talbot-Dion well over the bar.
On the other end of the field, Berens twice raced off his line to stop streaking Patriots who slipped containment.
Just as it appeared the game would enter the half scoreless, Concord-Carlisle went ahead with a minute remaining in the first 40 minutes. A steal at midfield found the ball 30 meters out where senior co-captain Garrett Leahy put a pass at the feet of forward Andrew Verrilli coming down the left who slotted a well-paced shot by Berens into the right side of the net.
Belmont was fortunate to stay down by one as a shot from Verrilli whacked the crossbar on a one-time blast four minutes into the second half.
Bisceglia made a series of tactical changes to free up his midfield but Lazenby, Kilavatitu and Danny Rizzo found it hard sledding to push up field with possession, especially as the big Patriot midfielders played with greater defensive purpose.
“I think some formation changes and coaching decisions could have been better, to put our players in better spots,” said Bisceglia.
Belmont got close with less than three minutes remaining in the game. A Patriot miscue allowed Gallagher to possess the ball deep on the right side. He swung the ball into the center of the pitch; the ball was toed by Lazenby requiring a Concord-Carlisle defender to clear from the goal mouth. The resulting Belmont corner was cleared.
Two minutes later, the final whistle blew and with it, the end of a great post and regular season.
“It was a pleasure coaching them,” said Bisceglia, who nearly did not that the head coaching job due to personal events happening this year.
“I didn’t want to do it if I couldn’t fully commit to this team. And the seniors were why I made the choice,” said Bisceglia, having coached them four years ago as freshmen on an undefeated junior varsity team.
“I knew how special they were, not just as players but as people. They are just good guys,” he said.
“In fact, even if we had won a state championship, I probably would still feel the same sense of sadness seeing them leave,” said Bisceglia.
While Belmont will have a strong core of players returning next season including Trevor Kelly, Tokio Kobayashi, Daron Hamparian, Edward Stafford and Marvyn Dorchin, the team will miss the leadership and skills of its senior core: Berens, Gallagher, Kilavatitu, Lazenby, Rizzo, Fernald, Gavin Denison, Alex Berets, Charles Frigo, Andrew Eurdolian, Luke Perotta, Sami Belkadi, Matt Lawson and Nick Andrikidis.